Filed Under Improv
Another thing I wonder while watching Crossballs: was the audience told what they’d be seeing? Do they know the show is a satire? It seems like it can take a while for the audience to laugh (that may just be because something wasn’t all that funny). But that might also be because they don’t know they are allowed to laugh. (The decision to have an audience is also curious… is it a variation on the laughtrack idea, i.e. those at home won’t know it’s funny unless we have people laughing?)
Are they buying this as a cross between Jerry Springer and Hardball? Or are they in on the joke from the getgo? It seems like it wouldn’t be hard to inform the audience what’s going on… it was done for Superstar USA if I recall. I’d love to hear from anybody who’s been to a live taping of Crossballs.
Filed Under Improv
Despite complaints from the left and the right, I have a hard time seeing anyone who appears on the show Crossballs getting all that upset. Mainly because I can’t believe they would still buy the show as real after seeing some of the exaggerated positions the fake guests take. On a show about vegetarians/animals, Matt Besser appeared as a German concerned about the purity of the German Shepherd breed. Incredibly funny and completely over the top. Though I saw a couple of smiles from the real experts, it appeared to be more from disbelief in the person rather than the context. They’d continue to debate despite this and other rather obviously demented positions.
I think Crossballs gets away with this because the host Chris Tallman is so willing to play the straight man to all of this. Any time one of the other players on the show makes an extreme statement, he’ll pipe right in with a “You’re wrong” or an “Are you serious?” that assures the real guests that they have another reasonable person in the room.
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.
The #1 tenet of comedy: If you’re not pissing someone off, you’re not doing your job.
Corollary: Try to aim for Republicans… they’re pretty easy targets.
Apparently Comedy Central’s upcoming show faux debate show “Crossballs” is the latest example of Viacom’s left wing bias (other shows include apparently “The Daily Show”, which did a recent piece making fun of Kerry VP candidates and regularly features Jon Stewart being deferential to guests from conservative groups and causes.) The fantastic thing about this editorial/call for arms is that it proves exactly why conservative are great targets. She’s complaining about a show that hasn’t even aired yet. Insanity!
The best 20 pages I ever read on comedy were in a psychology book co-authored by John Cleese. In it, he describes how “inflexible behavior” is inevitably funny. Conservative commentators, almost by definition (even with a modifier like “compassionate”), are inflexible. You’re gonna be a target when you take a stand on something and not give any ground. If conservatives would be better sports about a culture that takes satirical jabs at them, the jabs would happen less. But that would be flexible behavior… not gonna happen.
Heartening News Apparently, the very late-airing season finale for Arrested Development did well in that 18-34 year old potential-soap-buying audience. Love the audacity of the Sorpranos, but to me the surprise of the night was how much Arrested’s first season tied up with the “light treason” of building tract housing in Iraq. God bless the spot after Simpsons.