Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy
After suffering from a debilitating stroke last month, Patrice O’Neal has died. He was 41 years old.
The first time I saw O’Neal, I had that moment where I would feel myself leaning forward in my seat, fascinated at the brilliant mind at work. Definitely raw and uncompromising, but you underestimated him to think he was dirty for dirty’s sake. Particularly with his size and appearance, a lot of audiences would misjudge him, to their own peril if he discovered it while engaging with you on stage.
What always struck me was how Patrice O’Neal turned stand-up into a conversation. Talking to the audience, determining their thoughts and then pointing out the comic logic of their own making. The best example, I can think of is in O’Neal’s HBO One Night Stand. After some raw talk about women and sex, O’Neal challenged the women in the audience to tell him how they’d keep their man if they’d lost their pussy. After hearing a litany of other sexual acts from women in the audience, he points out that how is he such a bad guy when every women who answered just “classified yourselves as a series of holes.” The filthiest use of the Socratic Method I can think of.
Here’s another example, where he feigns ignorance for a second to show rather than tell his potentially controversial. There’s no worries about bringing the audience along with him here. They’re already there. He’s just pointing it out.
Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy
A&E’s Evening at the Improv is commonly pined as a marker for the beginning of the end of the comedy boom. Not necessarily bad in and of itself, but as the start of ubiquity — a parade of comedians who were as indistinguishable as the brick walls they stood in front of.
I can’t recall ever seeing a full episode, just a few clips on the internet. But now, Hulu has put up 52 episodes of the series with possibly more to come, judging from how it’s pulling currently from the middle of the show’s run.
What’s fascinating about Evening at the Improv is how executives thought they had to package this “new” thing called stand-up… specifically using guest hosts who often aren’t stand-ups. Stand-up must have been seen as less than a sure thing. Why else would you try and goose viewership with a parade of 80s names who’ve never done it?
It leads to some hysterical incongruities. Below, Emanuel Lewis awkwardly introduces Dana Gould, who later became a pioneer in performing comedy away from comedy clubs. Gould’s routine — which even then is pointing at the artifice of stand-up and shows like Evening at the Improv — elicits a cut to Lewis again at some wonderfully dark material (around 18:50 below)...
Yep, lets put the camera on the child after that joke. Good idea.
Digging in from what’s currently up on Hulu, you’ll find some big names like Adam Sandler, Tim Allen, George Lopez and Jeff Dunham but also some interesting rarities. Like a routine from Bridesmaids director Paul Feig, who starts off with an intentional stinker:
It’s probably a slippery slope to draw a line from that joke to Feig’s work on “Freaks and Geeks”, but here I am, doing just that.
Also on Paul Feig’s show: Jeff Garlin and Colin Quinn. Hosted by “Body by Jake.”
There’s so much more to dig into here. This was the apex of the first boom. We’re in the middle of a second stand-up boom, maybe even at an apex. Some lessons perhaps?
Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy
So this is almost nigh…
I’ve seen speculation that this meetup will address the joke stealing controversy, but I’m not so sure. Louie can be such an odd, surreal show that this moment could be about almost anything else. It could be at worst like the Letterman/Leno Super Bowl commercial… an opportunity for a good joke that neither comic can pass up. Louis C.K. has recently expressed mixed feelings about the accusations, so even doing the show is a little bit of an absolution for Cook.
I’ll be watching like all of you to find out.
Update: And I was completely wrong.
What’s really great about this episode is that it makes Dane Cook the aggrieved party – hardly what anyone expected. You’re put inside Cook’s mind as a person who knows his innocence and finds the stellar success he achieved in 2006 used, in part, to convict him. Both comics make great points here… C.K. asserting that Cook may have unconsciously absorbed his material in the constant need for fuel that a career like Cook’s requires. Cook pointing out that C.K. allowed him to be taken down without full-throatily making the accusations himself. (Whatever you say about Joe Rogan, he’s had the nerve to accuse Carlos Mencia publicly from the beginning, letting everyone know where he stands.)
Cook, near the end, points out how universal it is to have an itchy asshole. And Louis C.K.‘s brilliant joke that follows is wonderful. But C.K.‘s suggestion of how to avoid an itchy asshole is just as much an acknowledgement of how common an itchy asshole is in the human experience. A neat little way for C.K. to absolve Cook for at least one of the jokes, even if there’s no way either could entirely see eye to eye on the other two jokes.
Wednesday I was lucky enough to be at the Comedy Cellar for not only a great lineup of comedians, but also to catch a couple of surprise drop-ins: Louis CK and Chris Rock. It’s not the first time I’ve caught an unannounced comedian added to the bill - I’ve also seen Jerry Seinfeld show up for a set at the Cellar.
After these shows, I realized I knew why the comedians showed up at the Cellar that night. And though you can’t be 100% sure you’ll see someone unexpected at a club (hence the definition of the word “unexpected”), here’s a couple of tips for attending a good show that might turn out even better.
And here’s the final result of the drop-in I caught… Chris Rock on Letterman last night:
Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy
Comedian Mike DeStefano died from a heart attack late yesterday. DeStefano’s comedic life was defined by fearlessly broaching the hardest and darkest parts of the rest of his life. The comedian was a former heroin addict and HIV positive. He lost his wife Franny to AIDS and then soon after, his father, with whom he had a tempestuous and complicated relationship.
Much of this was discussed in his recent one-man show “Drugs, Disease and Death: A Comedy” The show was produced by my friends at Cringe Humor, who became incredibly close with Mike. If there was anybody who was a reflection of what a Cringe comic is, DeStefano was it. He was a master of comedic alchemy - changing pain (lead) into humor (gold). For such miraculous events, gasps musts accompany the laughs.
“Drugs, Disease and Death” was a work in progress, but still a triumph for the comedian. The version I saw was one of the more joke-heavy versions of the show, but I was told the night before there were tears from Mike as he recited his story. Fully realized, balancing the emotion and humor, I have no doubt that it would be a comedic milestone for any who saw it. I’m blessed that I saw him and feel great sadness that so many others will not.
I’m going to share the following clip of Mike, even though it’s not representative of how funny the man was. But it’s probably the best reflection of him as a man. It’s rare in life to know the best thing you ever done. Mike did. It’s called “Franny’s Last Ride” and it’s from The Moth. (Updated video from the official Moth YouTube Channel. And as Sean McCarthy points out, this is from HBO’s Aspen Comedy Festival.)
Update: CringeHumor is planning on showing footage they shot from “Drugs, Disease and Death” for an upcoming show at the Barrow Street Theater. Proceeds will go to the Narcotics Anonymous charities that DeStefano worked with. Originally, DeStefano was supposed to do his one-man show “A Cherry Tree in the Bronx” at Barrow Street on Wednesday, March 9th.
Filed Under Print
A nice find from The Awl, which has the cover for “Bossypants”, Tina Fey’s upcoming book for Little, Brown. It’s being shown off at the Frankfurt Book Fair. “30 Rock” can be wonderfully silly in the big ways a sitcom needs to be, but I like the subtlety of this piece of silliness. And yet, it’s still fairly easy to spot. Check it:
“Bossypants” isn’t expected on shelves (or your Kindle or iPad for that matter) until April of 2011.