Category: Late Night

Tenderizing Tough Crowd

Filed Under Late Night

Tough Crowd might be back... sorta. The same producers from Tough Crowd have a new pilot at comedy central featuring discussion on the day’s events. Rather than Colin Quinn hosting, Greg Giraldo will be helming the show… his second show as he still a part of the Hollywood newsmag parody Gone Hollywood, which is also at consideration at Comedy Central. Instead of four panelists, three. And the format: discussion, discussion and man on the street bit. Oh, and a new name. But still, it’s Tough Crowd... sorta. (As Tough Crowd was Politically Incorrect... sorta.)

The real test for this will be if the fans on (who organized a Save Tough Crowd campaign which I now suppose kinda succeeded) embrace it. The site’s operator, Patrick Milligan attended and reviewed one of the pilot tapings. He mentions Greg Giraldo’s audience warmup request to not hear that the show’s just “a second rate Tough Crowd.” Patrick promptly calls it “Tough Crowd lite.” He waxes quite a bit about the show is pretty tight and rehearsed as opposed to the anything-could-happen nature of Quinn’s show. (He also curiously mentions that many of Colin’s old regulars want to have nothing to do with the new show.) But he admits there’s lot of “smooth comedy” there and hopes it makes it on the air, but in an hour format on Friday rather than paired with The Daily Show.

As for what should follow The Daily Show? Appealing to the political/socially interested viewer is a good instinct. Tough Crowd itself became too much about watching the comedians crack on each other rather than the day’s events. Having a comedic discussion with substance has still only been done well by Bill Maher. Even if you think the man is smug, he still can be funny and hold an intelligent conversation about an issue at the same time. Maybe Giraldo can too. The Daily Show stature has gotten so strong, it’s hard imagining any show following it could escape its shadow. Doubly so anything political. So personally, I’m hoping “Gone Hollywood” is something equally satirical about our mind-numbing celebrity culture.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 03:13 AM | Comments (0)

Late Night with Joe Garden. Has a Nice Ring to it.

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The race to be the heir apparent to the heir apparent for the Tonight Show starts now. Onion writer Joe Garden has started a campaign to take over for Conan O’Brien on Late Night when the Harvard grad heads to the Tonight Show in 2009. Not many details are forthcoming yet, but Joe is offering a clearing house for old monologue jokes, with prices that appropriately show how beaten targets like OJ, Michael Jackson and the Dell Guy are. He promises a blog that previews his 2009 monologue and a future theme song.

The Sound of Young America radio show had a recent podcast with an interview with the would-be successor, where Joe vocalizes how he intends to kickstart the “brand of Joe Garden.” Despite nude photos of himself on the Onion site and a predilection to licking co-workers like a cat for 30 minutes, his writing background may well shine past such moral failures. But check and decide for yourself.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 07:50 PM | Comments (0)

Jay Leno Gagged, But Not Bound (Dammit!)

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Since Jay Leno may end up testifying in the Michael Jackson case, there’s a gag order limiting what he can say about the trial. As has been suggested, Leno is using others to tell his Jacko jokes for him until the matter is clarified. But wouldn’t it have been nice to see some kind of accord between Late Night shows that Michael Jackson jokes are done. Let’s just ignore it and mine other territory.

Monologue jokes, to me, are the ultimate in non-funny funny. They have no surprise… they play off well-worn caricatures that everybody knows. And worse, they don’t really say anything about the subjects they target.

An example: Star Jones is often slammed in late night for being fat (in admittedly inventive ways, on Conan he jokes that one of Star’s furs extincts three species). Weight’s a traditional target, so these jokes could be about anyone. Think of another fat personality and you have essentially the same jokes.

On a recent Daily Show, Jon ran a clip of Star referencing how late night comics often make jokes about her weight. Jon quickly clarified that he’s never jokes about her weight, rather that she “lives three feet up her own ass.” And that target is a far better one. Not only is it more specific to Star, it also captures the lack of self-awareness and ego that makes her so reprehensible. Who cares if she’s fat? Being fat has nothing to do with what’s wrong with her and her behavior.

I’m glad to see Leno is being inventive in how he’ll target Michael Jackson, but I can’t help but wish he’d use as an opportunity to pick other targets far worthier of gags.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 06:30 PM | Comments (0)

Johnny Carson, 1925-2005

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I would state this is such a void in the comedy world, but Carson was so good to his word about retiring that to most of the public and the industry, the void was already there. And that’s admirable. The fact he just left with grace, didn’t look for applause in a society where it increasing seems everyone wants fame and attention, it’s absolutely refreshing.

His only public contributions since 1992 seem to be a couple of New Yorker casuals and those recently announced monologue bits for Letterman. From my reading, the only reason why they ended up in the media was the small circle of friends Carson kept in touch with encouraged him to contribute his talent. It sounds like the act of a young comic trying to make his way in the business, except absent of any of the ambition and done for the pure joy of creation.

More ruminations as they come, but here’s a collection of links (some from TVTattle):

NY Times: Obiturary
NY Times: Carson Never Stopped Writing Jokes.
NY Times: Carson’s Last Monologue
NY Times: Goodbye to Carson’s Tonight Show from 1992
MSNBC: TV Died when Carson Left “Tonight”
Salon: Johnny Carson Profile from 2001
Salon: Quotes from Others on Carson (A good example of why Carson was private - much classier way of living.)
New Yorker Profile
NPR Remembrance
Slate’s Celebration of Carson as “Naughty Genius”

Official Johnny Carson Web Site

Posted by Todd Jackson at 08:15 AM | Comments (1)

Tough Crowd Post Mortem

Filed Under Late Night

I always admire the futility of Save Our Show campaigns. To me it’s better to be a cult hit than a hit hit, the near cult hits that make up “Save _____” campaigns reflect that there’s something about the show that people are missing, myself included in this case.’s savetoughcrowd campaign may not have prevent Colin’s cancellation, but it got me and hopefully a few other viewers to take a second look.

I’ve never been a big fan of Tough Crowd. It seemed pretty hit or miss depending on the guests, plus the yelling over each other made it impossible to hear a lot of jokes. But now, I can see how fans love the rawness of it. In an age where even show that trade in dark humor strive for an ultraprofessional look, something that shows everything warts and all is amazing. Other shows on Comedy Central have this aesthetic too… Insomniac springs to mind (which consistently showed Dave Attell‘s flubs, trips and bombs amid the late night living it up). I think the fact that Tough Crowd lived for two years is pretty amazing… it’s pretty much only-on-Comedy-Central stuff, even frequent guest Jim Norton gives ‘em credit for that in his blog.

That said, I don’t think the cringehumor fans show just be grateful for what they got. The camaraderie of the comedians on the show and its writers, many who like Laurie Killmartin describe it as the best experience of their lives, along with the intense devotion of its fans shows that something was lost here. It might be done, but at least Tough Crowd might be invoked with other long lamented CC Shows like Strangers with Candy, Upright Citizens Brigade and TV Funhouse. Comedy Martyrs like these kinda live on. (Hell, look at what the Comedy never-wases do.)

In fact, the faithful can continue to bemoan Tough Crowd’s cancellation. The savetoughcrowd campaign is still supplying letters and address to see CC exec. And if you’re in NY, you can check out Wednesday’s Rejection Show, which feature an all Tough Crowd guest list. Presuably, we’ll get to see some stuff Comedy Central was nervous to air, if you can imagine that (and really, if you can’t… you should go. You’d be surprised).

Posted by Todd Jackson at 07:00 PM | Comments (0)

No. 7… They just don’t make me laugh anymore.

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This article informs us that Letterman’s Top Ten list is now nearly 20 years old. Though a list is a perennial format for ha-has, I remember my distinct distaste for it developed when I heard my high school’s “class clown” ripoff the Top 10 list during the morning announcements. (Even then a comedy snob.)

Thankfully, this little article features Executive Producer Rob Burnett’s favorite lists, which are naturally a bit more eccentric than your topical one: one featuring what if everyone was named Kevin and the other, names for Phil’s new hat store. From the latter:

  • Jimbo’s Lid City.
  • The Jim’o'shantery.
  • Wally’s Hat Shop (under new management).
  • If You Don’t Want a Hat, Then Screw You.

Good reminder that it’s not the form, it’s what you stick into it.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 12:35 AM | Comments (1)

Stewart 1, Carlson 0, The Public -243

Filed Under Late Night

I’m sure you’ve already heard about the huzzahs for Jon Stewart’s confrontational appearance on “Crossfire” (transcript, video). People were a little surprised to see a serious Stewart challenging the premise of Crossfire and particularly Tucker Carlson (whom Stewart attempts to even avoid facing, if you watch the video). But I think Stewart is sick of the idea that his show, a comedy show, is seen by many as the only oasis from spin.

Tucker Carlson attempted to make Stewart address his softball questions to John Kerry, but Stewart’s job isn’t to interrogate Presidental candidates. He’s a comedian and, sure, often a satirist, but the viewing public shouldn’t need him to do the job of the actual press. The media claims that they aim for objectivity but it’s obviously both parties have learned ways to work around that. The media has yet to adapt to these new realities. And that’s what Jon Stewart’s been screaming about for months.

As the media has been taking “The Daily Show” more seriously, it’s been missing the message of the show. It’s not that this is how people get their news. It where people gets the perspective that news used to provide. Satire only starts becoming a viable option for information when the media fails in its job. Demanding Jon Stewart ask harder questions of our elected officials shows how far our media has slipped. He’s not a newsman. He’s a comedian. Once the press stops trying to be entertainment, reporters and pundits won’t have to worry about entertainers doing their jobs better.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 09:37 PM | Comments (2)
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