Filed Under Awards
Carol Burnett will be this year's recipient for the Mark Twain prize for humor from the prestigious Kennedy Center. As the highest prize in comedy, the luminaries that Burnett will join are names like Carlin, Pryor, Winters, Cosby... although this year's prize breaks the recent trend of younger nominees like Tina Fey, Will Ferrell and Ellen Degeneres. But it still points to a trend of diversity with three of the past four winners being female. All in all, well-deserved.
It is a little bit of a mystery of who decides the Mark Twain Prize. And how do they decide?This story in Washington Post has an interesting look. First off, none of the folks on the selection committee are apparently in the comedy industry, which, if you're going to give out the prize, I actually don't have a problem with. This isn't a prize for comedians by comedians. It's a prize for comedians from the culture, which is mostly non-comedians (although judging from Twitter and Vine, this is less and less true.) And while the only absolute criteria seems to be breathing (which George Carlin promptly violated after winning the prize), the need to sell tickets and draw a rating are important. It's a rating on PBS, but still...
I should mention I am quoted at the end of the article questioning the need for comedy awards in the first place, filling the role of turd in the punch bowl.
The ceremony will take place on October 20th at the Kennedy Center and will be broadcast on PBS October 30.
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.
Well, no one could say Russell Brand didn’t try.
Last Wednesday, he work-shopped some material for hosting MTV’s Video Music Awards at “The Green Room” on Bleeker Street. Brand had hosted the show last year as well, but the crowd didn’t know what to make of his jokes about the Jonas Brothers and their promise rings. It was enough of a debacle that Brand spent a fair amount of his first United States comedy special talking about it. Good fodder for one show, but I’m sure he’d rather talk about something else in a second U.S. special.
The first thing you would notice about the impromptu show was the female/male ratio of the crowd. It tipped about 80/20. Brand’s lusty persona has a hold that’s really rare in the comedy world. I can’t remember the last comedy show where the opposite sex from my own was so strongly represented.
Brand framed the evening for the audience, but first realized he was a bit hungry and bemoaned he left behind a banana backstage. No worries however, an audience banana is quickly produced and in between mouthfuls, Brand told us how he wanted this year’s stint as the VMA’s master of ceremonies to go much better, specifically a desire to avoid “death threats.” So he was gong to try his material out on us. We were heavily encouraged to raise our hands if we believe Brand was nearing territory which would make him a target for more than a joke.
Hand-raising was the least of the contribution Brand sought from the audience. The audience acted like a writer’s room at times for Brand, offering punch-up for bits. Sometimes it was just a word - don’t say “Fuck”, say “Nail.” A long diversion occurred about what word to use for asshole. (“Orifice” - not specific.)
But a few times it was a bit more. One in the crowd had a reaction to the tail end of the joke, and Brand immediately earnestly question that didn’t he have to have a third thing, citing comedy’s “rule of three.” It was a generous assumption that the audience would know what he was talking about.
Brand might have been too generous. Brand at one point elicited suggestion for a bizarre thing he could suggest Pink might do in her performance. A voice from behind me yelled, “Pink comes out and fucks Michael Jackson’s corpse.” Thankfully, lost in the din of other suggestions.
Another joke about P. Diddy and Jennifer Lopez elicited a response that it should be about P. Diddy’s current girlfriend. Russell Brand made a good observation that true for constructing all monologue jokes, stating that “a fact that nobody knows, it’s almost like it’s it’s not a fact.”
A variation of this is also a lesson for Brand, which, after watching his parts of the VMAs, I think he’s unfortunately had to learn twice. Brand’s obsessive sexual persona is great for his stand-up, but it’s still so unknown on these shores that people just wonder “why is this British guy is saying dirty stuff about our pop-stars?” If the jokes rely a bit on who you are, and you’re still relatively unknown, then no one is going to get your jokes. Brand knows this, he even said so much in that aforementioned first US special.
I think the VMAs are a terrible place to try and be funny anyway. Just like the Oscars, the audience is full of music folks taken a relatively meaningless awards far too seriously (see Kanye). The best reaction you’re going to manage is clapter - the clapping for a political point of agreement- not laughs. Brand’s best moment was when he referred to Britain having free healthcare, and it was more of a statement than a joke. (It was a popular line the night he was working out material as well. And wasn’t part of his initial monologue. No wonder he moved it up.)
And Brand’s talent is two fold, the second being something that’s could never be part of the VMAs but was part of the show I saw. He’s more than just a prancing pervert, but dares into metaphysical stream-of-consciousness, where he imagines that we’re all connected backwards to prior generations and each other by umbilical cords, suggesting that as a reason to cast a kinder eye at celebrity. His mind ventures in places that MTV just doesn’t cover unless it’s pretentiously shown in a rarely aired music video. I can’t imagine MTV offering the VMAs again, but if they do, hopefully, Brand won’t try and make the third time the charm.
When the 2008 Grammy nominations were announced, I was happy but skeptical about the Flight of the Conchords (Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement) chance to win. Alternative stuff is rarely nodded in the comedy category so I was just pleased that their EP “The Distant Future” got that far. I also kind of thought that a record with only five songs - five brilliant songs, but five nonetheless—would be at a disadvantage.
Well, it turns out they did pull out the Grammy, beating my favorite Steven Wright, who after more than 25 years performing, had only released his second album last year. Apparently 22 years between albums is trumped by 24 years between Grammys for New Zealand, home to the Conchords. Hopefully Wright will be more prolific in the future. Not to win Grammys, but just because it’d be nice to have more of his work on my stereo, or rather, ripped from the CD and encoded as mp3s in my iTunes playlist.
Bret and Jermaine have another album coming later this year - this one the full-length “Flight of the Conchords”, including songs from the first season of their also self-titled TV show. Which they promise:
finally renders pointless all the inexpert fan-made audio transfers (the modern day equivalent of holding a microphone up to the television speaker and shouting at your mom to be quiet), which have bloated hard drives the world over.
The release date is only two months away: April 22, 2008. Something to look forward to, eh?
So, the nominees for the Comedy Grammy Award were announced. Here they are:
First off, I’m glad the Flight of the Conchords are in there. Awesome. While I think they have no shot of winning (but would be happy to be proven wrong), it’s still nice to see a nominee in a more alternative vein. I think that’s the first time something in that spirit has been nominated in that category since David Cross’s “Shut Up You Fucking Baby.” Considering we’re in a resurgence of the comedy album, it’s a little bit of a bummer to not see Patton Oswalt get a nod, his “Werewolves and Lollipops” release being one of the most highly anticipated this year. The man is prolific and at the top of his form. Though I don’t believe in awards for comedy, if we’re going to have awards one of ‘em should be put in Patton’s paws.
My choice to win: Steven Wright. The man’s practically a legend and this is only his second album. The amount of jokes of his that have been lost because they were never recorded almost bums me out when I think about it. Give him the Grammy, if only to encourage him to make the follow-up album “That Pony? Yeah, I still have her.” I think he will win too, but I got a funny feeling about George Lopez…
Besting the likes of George Carlin and Weird Al, Lewis Black took home the Grammy for his album, “The Carnegie Hall Performance.” I have to admit that I am a little surprised by this one - not because of Lewis Black’s album but because Weird Al had a top ten single and Ron White‘s on the ballot twice (once for himself, once for Blue Collar Comedy Tour). The latter one is sort of victory in itself and I actually thought it might give him a surprise win, considering he’s the one Blue Collar Comic that’s liked even by their detractors.
Of course, in a year where the Dixie Chicks win all five awards they were up for, it makes sense that a comedian who equally outspoken about the failures of the Bush administration would win. It’s also a big victory for Comedy Central Records because “The Carnegie Hall Performance” is the first album on the label to earn a Grammy. Big congrats to Comedy Central Records Jack Vaughn - who’s pretty much the architect of the whole shebang over there. (Also deserving of applause is Stand-Up Records Dan Schlissel - who produced the album.)
Measuring an entertainer from today that lives up to the talents and spirit of Andy Kaufman seems to me to be an almost impossible task. Andy Kaufman was a master of misdirection and the core of the comedic arts: surprise. How can you possibly say that one performer is the most unpredictable?
But the event judges showed themselves equal to the task, following up last year’s selection of Kristen Schaal with Reggie Watts, a comedian/musician who uses sound as a comic canvas. He began his set by speaking completely unintelligibly but hilariously for several sentences until he said clearly, “and that’s why I got into comedy.” Then ‘starting off by starting”, he went into one of his two songs which featured some incredible beatboxing into equally impressive verbal tap dancing. A later number was introduced as a “gentle” song about an elf, with the first lyric being a raucous “Hell yeah.” One of his most dazzling feats to me was watching him turn his confession that he had gone “gay” and was meeting with “gay integration counselors” that seem right out of a right-winger imagination into the blandest of corporate speak. (Check this clip called “Scrotor” to get a better idea of what Reggie is capable of.)
One of my favorites from the show were the especially fascinating Charlyne Yi, who collected some valuables from the audiences including some change, gold earrings and a camera and offer that along with the $125 in her pocket for someone to come up and punch her in the face. It was an incredibly beautiful awkward moment that despite the promises of it being “a very good trick” the diminutive Yi had a hard time finding a taker. (You can find some videos of hers on You Tube here.) Another interesting performer was Red Bastard, who resembles a devil with several disturbing bulbous implants on his belly and ass. His honesty at the hopes of being “plucked out of these dumps to be some place reputable like the American Airlines Theatre” was biting at both ends. Also enjoyable was Ken Barnard, who gave us a reading, in character, from his favorite novel - Rocky 3 (“The third is a series of five. Well, the author is working on a sixth). Ambrose Martos got the audience laughing for several uncomfortable seconds while he sat silent waiting for someone to ring a bell that launched him into a spontaneous birthday party for the bell ringer - complete with favor, present, party hat and cake.
One note: performers were asked to keep it clean, because Andy always did. And I have to say, that this show had the most kids I’ve ever seen at a comedy club and, even in environment where more conceptual and bizarre comedy reigned, they didn’t seem out of place at all.