My only complaint about Julie Seabaugh's Oral's History of Comedy Central is that, by nature, you have to have cursory looks over some of the defining shows. The Daily Show or South Park are particularly ripe for Oral Histories themselves. But this is a quibble on a good read. And it's only part one. Still more to come.
Amazingly, there's still parts of Comedy Central's back library that still resonate and that they're willing to potentially resurrect... an intriguing tidbit from the article:
Katz: Dr. Katz has such a loyal fan base, even now. At one point not so long ago Comedy Central approached Tom Snyder and myself to make webisodes of the series. The idea was they would introduce all the [young] comedians in Comedy Central’s stable. They backed out at the last minute. But I expect it will be back somewhere in some form.
I love this, not only for the possibility of more Dr. Katz, but just the optimism of that last sentence. Streaming + Content Demands + Nostalgia has turned the "goobyes" for a lot of belowed shows into "see you laters."
Filed Under Animation
I'm constantly behind on my comedy viewing. My TiVo, even with a external hard drive expander, groans at 90+% continuously. I watch very few things at the moment unless it's extremely timely.
Rick and Morty is one of those rare shows. Endlessly inventive with ideas casually tossed out that could be the entire basis of other shows. But the events, no matter how crazy, have weight and consequences... we're technically in our second Rick and Morty-verse (the first is a post apocolyptic mutant hellscape after a pheromone experiment gone awry).
So I'm very much looking forward to seeing how many "Verses" we'll go through for Season 2... we got at least one episode that looks to be a split screen showing the events in two verses simultaneously. Who knows? Maybe they'll both go up in horrible, hilarious fashion.
Rick and Morty returns to Adult Swim July 26th at 11:30pm
The hardest thing about this year’s Comedy Awards to me is that at least two separate things loom so high over everything else that happened that I have a hard time seeing why others with win.
First, for movies… Bridesmaids. Which was not just funny but also an impressive portrait of a character who is profoundly sad because of the loss of her business and her romantic relationship. It’s got fantastic gross out scenes but is actually wildly funny at the same time that the characters have grounded and real feelings. I didn’t see everything nominated this year, but Bridesmaids was able to balance such hard comedy with a character’s emotional life is enough for me to suggest a sweep of most of the movie categories (save for Performance by Actor, heh).
The second, in TV and Stand-Up… Louis C.K. With “Louie”, C.K. always surprises. I never know what I’m going to see from week to week but I’m always delighted as it unfolds. And as a stand-up, C.K. has very few challengers… particularly with how he changed the game with his own self-released special on the web. Almost everything he was nominated for, save Comedy Actor, he feels like a lock to me. With him calling his win last year “the greatest moment of the shittiest night of my life”, I’m looking forward to seeing the visible discomfort at the adulation (as a comic should be).
I voted in this year’s Comedy Awards and though it might be obvious how I voted after what I said above, I’m not sure if I can tell you all my picks. But I’ll tell you my right/wrong ratio for the official categories at the end of the night.
6:46 OK, we’re starting soon… I did a little tweeting before it. Might do a little more when I got some acidic, non-pertinent snark. Read my tweets here.
6:52 Doug Herzog, Comedy Central President, is bravely doing warm-up… promising it all gets funnier afterwards. Doug is also detailing the The Comedy Fund, which is the foundation that helps comedians who are having major life transitions… (i.e. no health insurance and very sick among other bad things.) Perhaps a Sarah McLachlan-esque poignant montage of the faces of sad and confused comedians will come during the show? Fingers crossed!
7:16 And we’ve started… Andy Richter welcoming us “From the Comedy Award capital of the world!”
7:18 And we start with the award that will have the most obvious winner. Chris Rock on nominees for Stand-Up Specials: Three are funny. One used to be funny. One never was funny. Does he mean it? He does. Anyone care to guess which ones? Nominees: Louis C.K.: Live at the Beacon Theater, Norm Macdonald: Me Doing Standup, Patton Oswalt Finest Hour, Colin Quinn Long Story Short, Daniel Tosh: Happy Thoughts.
Winner: Louis C.K.... wearing a tie this year! He’s changed! Apologize to all the girls who cheered Daniel Tosh, says he wants to fuck him too. I’m 1 for 1 so far.
7:25 Will Arnett presenting the award for TV Writing. But first, let’s look at the schwag bag… which comes with a live turtle. Aww. Nominees: 30 Rock, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Louie, Modern Family, Parks and Recreation, Saturday Night Live
Winner: 30 Rock. Yeah, it’s still pretty amazing. But as good as the always surprising Louie? Not to me. 1 for 2.
7:31 Maya Rudolph talks about online shopping addiction, perhaps her online shopping addiction before introducing Best TV Performance by an Actor. Nominees: Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock; Ty Burrell; Modern Family; Louis C.K., Louie; Steve Carell, The Office; Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Winner: Ty Burrell. With a very heartfelt speech. Definitely deserves it. And if I had any brains while filling out my form, I’d be 2 for 3. But I’m actually 1 for 3. Yikes…
7:37 Now, Best Film Performances by an Actress. Chris Parnell hasn’t seen any of these nominees, because he watches porn parodies exclusively. Nominees: Jennifer Aniston, Horrible Bosses; Cameron Diaz, Bad Teacher; Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids; Emma Stone, Crazy, Stupid, Love; Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids
The clips of the actress will need to be bleeped. Them some filthy laddies.
Winner: Melissa McCarthy. I picked Kristen Wiig… I’m afraid I judged this beyond the comedic appeal, basing it on the big arc of the movie rather than the explosive appearance… So I’m 1 for 4. Maybe this comedy thing isn’t for me…
Melissa McCarthy wasn’t there to accept. But Norm McDonald did, or rather didn’t, bringing on a Native American in full headdress who, in a wonderful cringe-worthy way, spoke to the rape of the land and how they can’t join in the laughing. It’s a very dark bit and I was laughing hard… but it’s not for everybody. Plus: super old reference.
7:46 Tracy Morgan is giving up show business and joining the Secret Service. But first, the nominees for best Sketch Alternative series: Childrens Hospital; Louie; Portlandia; Saturday Night Live; Tosh.0
Winner: Louie....who points out he won an award from another black guy. Maybe I should have looked at who would give the awards before I picked. I’m 2 for 5. Also, wonders, like a lot in the press room, why Louie is considered a sketch show.
7:51 Tracy Morgan takes back quitting. Not interested in taking bullets, even for a black president apparently. Now, Club Comic. Nominees: Ted Alexandro; Hannibal Buress; Pete Holmes; Anthony Jeselnik; Moshe Kasher; John Mulaney; Kumail Nanjiani; Chelsea Peretti; Amy Schumer; Rory Scovel
Winner: Hannibal Buress Great choice. The one I should have picked. 2 for 6. Hannibal points out that none of the other nominees showed up, but he still deserves it because he’s the “dopest” out of all of ‘em. Also, the caucasians split the white vote. Then plugs his tour dates. (Which you can see here: Hannibal Buress Tour Dates)
7:57 Adam Scott with the nominees for Best Director of a Comedy Film: Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris; James Bobin, The Muppets; Paul Feig, Bridesmaids; Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, Crazy, Stupid, Love; Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Winner: Paul Feig... Paul decides to direct someone else to do his acceptance speech. He brings up Will Arnett rather than using Adam Scott, who’s on stage. “Just went a different way.” Arnett reads the speech, including a brilliant advance of Feig’s wife (with suggestive statuette gestures from Feig in the background). Feig’s wife can’t hold it together… a highlight of the show.
Oh, I’m 3 for 7. Woo!
8:06 A tribute to SNL’s Weekend Update… with Colin Quinn, Chevy Chase and Norm MacDonald all at the desk. Chevy Chase kind of rants about how it all begin and pretends(?) that he doesn’t know the current host of the segment. “Oh yes, Seth Myers… with the big smile.” Colin reads his speech he would have read if he won for stand-up special. Norm mentions that he was told not to prepare anything. Little Feather shows up talking about Wounded Knee again. There’s an attempt by Chase to get Jon Stewart on stage to arm wrestle. Norm points out that without Chase, nobody else would have got to do it. And then, mentions how the segment was good at taking down those full of themselves… sort of sounding like a slam on Chase…
It’s a bizarre, surreal segment, almost trainwrecky… They cut to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler at one point pretending to sleep. It’ll be interesting to see what of the intro makes it to air. Then clip package… of all the moments you love. No musical guest this year. So this instead…
8:34 After a lull, Key and Peele bring us back with Obama and his anger translator. Anger translator making a big deal about how he needs million cause he running against a millionaire. Plus, where’s all the black people at?
8:38 Between Two Ferns segment with Zach Galifianakis previewing the special that will air before the Comedy Awards. Galifianakis asks Richard Branson about working with “Hot AIr Baboons.”
8:41 Key and Peele in the press room are planning a web series to be responsive during the election with a prepared set for Obama and Luther. They can shoot and get it up hopefully same day. Almost like a war room, but funny.
Also, the cast of Happy Endings giving award for best viral original… which I didn’t vote on.
8:46 Rob Riggle claims he’s totally prepared. And will stop anybody who rushing the stage. Looking at you, Wiig. Nominees for Comedy Series: 30 Rock, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Happy Endings, Modern Family, Parks and Recreation
Winner: Parks & Recreations That makes me 4 for 8. So deserved… “Excited to join the ranks of the one show that has won this award.” Then they thank all the husband and wives and “everyone who is a nice person.”
8:52 Rob Riggle introduces nominees for Animated Comedy Series: Archer; Family Guy; The Life & Times of Tim; The Simpsons; South Park
Winner: Archer 5 for 9! One of the co-creators slipped while getting the award… ouch. (in the Press room he joked that Riggle tazed him, but he apparently to have enjoyed the drink) “Jessica Walter couldn’t be here. H Jon Benjamin simply won’t be here.”
8:58 Patton Oswalt introduces Robin Williams winning the Stand-Up Icon Award. Williams riffs off the awards shape… and mentions that he never worked previous winner Eddie Murphy. Points out he started with only getting three minutes at an open mic and then. Lucky… just like a leprechaun… save he snorted his pot of gold. Praise for current comedy: Patton Oswalt, Louis C.K., Chris Rock and shouts out to: Jonathan Winters (“the Buddha of Santa Barbara”), Mort Sahl and Sid Ceasar.
9:10 Ed Helms introduces nominees for Late Night: The Colbert Report; The Daily Show with Jon Stewart; Late Night with Jimmy Fallon; Late Show with David Letterman; Real Time with Bill Maher
Winner: The Daily Show Richter says it all “What a shocker. It’s the god damn Daily Show again.” Why didn’t I pick it? 5 for 10. All the correspondents accept while mentioning their crazy agendas…
9:16 Robin Williams in the press room, mentions that doing the Comedy Cellar is like playing “Lenny Bruce, the home game.”
Ed Helms presents Directing for Comedy Series. Nominees: The Colbert Report; The Daily Show with Jon Stewart; Late Night with Jimmy Fallon; Late Show with David Letterman; Real Time with Bill Maher
Winner: Louie. 6 for 11. Louie thanks his kids. Not by name. “because of the Internet.” And his kid’s mom. Which is classy and nice of him.
9:20 Comedy Screenplay. Nominees: 50/50; Bridesmaids; Crazy, Stupid, Love; Horrible Bosses; Midnight in Paris
Winner: Bridesmaids A great speech about friendship from Kristen Wiig and Mumolo which degenerates into a physical fight over who gets to take the award… I’m 7 for 12 now!
9:22 Chevy Chase gives a Best Friend Award to Joel McHale, which is a hug. Nominees for Stand-Up Tour: Dave Attell; Lewis Black; Louis C.K.; Kevin Hart; Jerry Seinfeld
Winner: Louis C.K. “This is stupid now. I hate this. Everything if you keep doing it starts to suck.” Then he walks off the stage. Brilliant. 8 for 13.
9:28 Louis C.K. in the press room on why he went to the web: Cites the small market for ‘em. “Nobody cares if you do a stand-up special. They say, yeah we’ll take it.”
9:30 Nominees for TV Comedy Actress: Zooey Deschanel, New Girl; Tina Fey, 30 Rock; Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation; Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live; Sofia Vergara, Modern Family
Winner: Amy Poehler First thing she’s ever won besides Stoner of the Year. Then very sincere that the job is her award and about her love for the comedy community, especially the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. Poehler doesn’t seem to far from Leslie Knope
And oh, 9 for 14… not too bad.
9:36 Jim Carrey says “Hello, room full of people with sick moms.” A little upset that he’s not nominated for Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Not personal. Here’s all the animal-hating nominees for Best Comedy Movie.
Winner: Bridesmaids Feig is accepting. Feig says one thing he wanted to ask the women, “Can I see your boobs?” Ugh. Sort of a false note.
9:45 Robert DeNiro honoring Don Rickles for the Johnny Carson Award… Mentions that after he worked with Don, Scorcese has worked with Leonardo DiCaprio for five films and DeNiro zip. Introduces Jon Stewart… mentions seeing RIckles in 1982 at Carnegie Hall. Stewart went backstage at the show. RIckles said to Jon, “Stewart, smart? Now they won’t know you’re a Jew.”
Jon reveres Rickles for turning the equation around on the audience, essentially asking what’s so special about you that I have to please you. Stewart points out it’s appropriate for Rickles to get Carson award since nobody made Johnny laugh harder.
Rickles is like Louis C.K. at first. “I wanna go home.” Rickles praises Carson, saying he had a magic to make you look good. Praise for all the late night hosts, especially Stewart for his grace… Very heartfelt speech. You’ll see a lot of the “Mr. Warmth” tonight… but ... “I see a lot of people in the audience and I realize I’m the biggest name here.”
As always, that last moment in front of the Johnny Carson’s Curtain make the night for me… validating why there’s a Comedy Awards.
Analysis later perhaps, but here’s some of the highlights:
Also part of the fest will be multiple performances of the following:
Tickets and more info available on the Just For Laughs website.
My good friend Ian Lendler, author of Alcoholica Esoterica, checked out a couple of the shows from the excellent San Francisco Sketchfest for the blog. He’s got two reports from this past weekend. This is his first.
So the San Francisco Sketchfest line-up looked something like this:
SFSketchfest is clearly throwing its hat in the ring to make the Aspen and Montreal Comedy Fests look like corporate wussies. Simply put, I love this festival. So the question looms: with a limited amount of money to spend, what show to see?
For Your Dead Frog Correspondent (YDFC), the answer was simple: An Evening with Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist (and Patients).
Why? It reminds me of the golden days. When Comedy Central was trying odd shows, intelligent shows, before they devolved into the Daily Show/South Park/and also-lots-of-things-which-suck network.
But mainly, the show had the strangest comedic timing this side of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, courtesy of Dr. Katz and the funniest human being on the planet, Jon Benjamin, playing his son, Ben. Comedy is all about timing and the show’s laconic rhythms made it a unique source of humor. You didn’t hear jokes like it anywhere else on television.
Comedians value anyone who can wring laughs out of people with a unique style, and perhaps that’s why Jonathan Katz became something of a comedian’s comedian. And he returned the favor, giving a spot on his couch to a number of comedians before they hit the big-time.
That’s to say nothing of the surprise patients that showed up each night. On Friday, it was Robin Williams sporting a giant horse head… umm… for no particular reason. And on Saturday, The Office’s actor/writer/producer, B.J. Novak.
So the question was: What would Dr. Katz be like on-stage? Two people facing each other in a faux-therapy situation and speaking in quiet tones is a tough sell. Fortunately, the crowd was there to show its love.
To be honest, the show wouldn’t qualify as the funniest event of the festival. But then again, the television show was never guffawingly uproarious. It just charmed you with its quirkiness. And Dr. Katz certainly did that on-stage. He was clearly enjoying playing the straight man as he giggled his way through setting up each comedian for their jokes.
The stand-out patient was Andy Kindler. Though he’s always struck me as a little too reliant on “I’m a Jew” humor, his anguished worrying turned the show into something out of Portnoy’s Complaint.
This highlighted an odd quirk of the television show. The best guests used Dr. Katz’s couch in the intimate confessional style of a real psychiatric office. That was why Ray Romano and Emo Philips’s low self-esteem kvetching made them better guests than, say, Mitch Hedberg, who despite being a far superior stand-up, just delivered his normal one-liners.
So despite the fact that B.J. Novak is a certified genius for his work on The Office, his funny one-liners (“People love Popeye, but he’s a devious guy. He opened a chain of restaurants and he doesn’t serve spinach at any of them…Popeye wants to keep us weak.”) simply came off as funny one-liners and nothing more.
Kudos should also be given to Robin Williams, who seemed on the verge of launching into his standard once-inspired now-tiresome riff-shtick until he veered into panic attack mode (“Dr. Katz, you told me go into rehab. Now my career’s in the toilet. What do I do?”).
Dr. Katz, too, provided the audience with the briefest moment of confession, revealing that he suffers from multiple sclerosis. Although he was just as quick to brush off this bad news with what he openly confessed was the worst joke of the evening: “How do you deal with terminal illness? Some people climb Mount Everest. Some people sleep with lots of women. I’m going to mount Geena Davis.”
Which just goes to show that Dr. Katz may enjoy being the straight man for other comedians, but Fate is the best straight man of all. And in that case, Dr. Katz is more than willing to take his place on the couch and find the punch-line.
Filed Under Animation
A while back I did a post about how sometimes comedy shows require more than one viewing to get. Xavier: Renegade Angel is one of those shows.
Though the show deliberately targets shallow adoption of new age/native american/eastern spirituality, Xavier is itself a consciousness expander - it demands your attention to get all the little jokes or else they slip by. In twelve minutes, so many ideas get packed in and then tied back together again. The speed it moves and the willingness to appear like nonsense, makes the show seem random to a casual eye.
A collection of bizarre physical traits including backwards legs and a snake for a hand, Xavier wanders the Earth, looking for the arsonist who murdered of his father. As a self-styled mystic and helper of the innocent, he finds people with problems to help along the way. But everyone he meets, he harms - often because he’s as narrow minded as the people who inevitably beat him up for being a freak when he first arrives into town. (Appropriately enough, the killer he’s searching for is himself. He burned the house down while meditating in a room with an insane amount of candles.)
Like the creators previous’ program Wonder Showzen, the creators’ willingness to use ugly imagery and darkness to create humor is bracing. It’s so rare. In this clip, happiness is equated with murder:
And the demented logic of it all. Take last week’s episode. Smoking and eating bacon takes years off your life, therefore if you eat enough of it you can travel backwards in time. How to travel forwards again is predictable…
...but the detail of how Xavier, who can’t touch anything without turning it to shit, strands two other people in the future in the process is pure genius.
This weekend’s episode (available at Adult Swim at 6 PM today) brings together Mother Earth, Darfur, rampant consumerism and some really wonderfully juvenile jokes about tampons all together. If you haven’t had a chance to tune in or have only seen the show once, you owe it to yourself as a comedy nerd to use the Adult Swim generosity of clips to watch a couple of episodes in a row.
The good news for those who have fallen into Xavier’s rhythms. I recently corresponded with Vernon Chatman, one of the series co-creators, who told me that they’ve already received an order for a second season (10 episodes) from Adult Swim. Great News.
Filed Under Animation
There’s been more than a few articles lately that seem to tear down Jerry Seinfeld, mostly motivated by the near relentless advertising and promotion for his “Bee Movie.” I can see why people get annoyed with this stuff - but I passed most of it using fast forward on the DVR. So maybe that’s why I’m not surprised that Seinfeld still has a bullshit detector himself, specifically during at his Larry King appearance, where he takes umbrage at the famously unprepared King saying Seinfeld (the show) was canceled.
It comes off a little mean, but wasn’t Seinfeld (the show) a little mean? Isn’t that what we kind of wanted to see from Jerry again?