“Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project” portrays a performer who’s one of the last of his kind, but who’s still packing them in today. It’s also a little bit about how casino entertainment has changed (Bob Newhart even sounds nostalgic for how the mob runs a showroom). The doc captures Don’s life story, but it’s not much for looking too closely at why or how Don does what he does.
But considering some of the rarely seen archival footage in the doc, it’s hard to be disappointed. Like this exclusive clip, which talks about Johnny Carson and his relationship with Rickles:
Of course, there’s plenty from contemporary comics too about Rickles influence. Check out the lesson that Sarah Silverman claims to have learned from Rickles, delivered completely deadpan:
Though there much made of how Rickles isn’t offensive when he does his bits about racial stereotypes, director John Landis knows how fine a line that can be and how times have changed. When the infamous Tonight Show cigarette box incident is shown, the part when Johnny Carson imitates a black guy is cut.
A fair amount of the doc was filmed at last year’s Comedy Festival including Rickles performance and several of the interviews with comics (although there’s none of the Ceasar Palace Laurel Award ceremony, where I first learned about the project).
“Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project” debuts on HBO tomorrow at 8PM.
Though best known perhaps for his appearances on Vh1 talking head nostalgia programs, Michael Ian Black is probably most beloved for his sketch comedy work on “The State” and for the sitcom “Stella” with fellow State members David Wain and Michael Showalter. In recent years, Black also has embarked on a stand-up career which brought the release of his first CD “I am a Wonderful Man” earlier this year. I talked to Black about his stand-up in contrast to his years as a performer at the alternative show “Eating It”, the upcoming movie he scripted entitled “Run Fatboy Run” and the ubiquity of cell phone cameras at shows and why he hates them.
Note: I talked to Black around the release of his CD but just got to transcribing it now. So if there’s any weird timeline issues, that’s why.
I saw you at “Eating It” a lot back in its early days at Rebar and at Luna Lounge and it’s interesting how your stand-up is now compared to then. It’s a bit more traditional now. And I was wondering if you could trace that for me.
Well, when I was doing Luna and before that Rebar, I was really experimenting with different forms of what comedy could be. I was just sort of playing with ideas. I was not really developed as a solo comedian – I had never done it before and was just playing around.
And so, it was all experimental. Over time, I wanted to – I’d always admired stand-up comedians and wanted to understand how to do what they do. It was just interesting to me. So over the past couple of years I just started doing traditional stand-up. Because I admire the craft so much. I admire people who can just get up on the stage and make people laugh. I wasn’t so interested in being Andy Kaufman-esque anymore or esoteric or weird. I wanted to just be able to get on the stage and not have people know who I am and be able to make them laugh. I thought that was an admirable goal.
It’s totally an admirable goal. But I think part of your stand-up now is informed by that experience. There’s some conceptual stuff…
I guess it does. I don’t really think of it that way. It’s just the kind of comedy I write. So I don’t think of “this is one thing and this is another” so much as I’m just trying to write jokes.
I know I’m probably getting a little esoteric here. Part of what I do is analyzing comedy. So I get that response – it’s a good one. Jokes are a bit like magic. They come out of the ether and they just work.
For me, I’m not an accomplished enough a comedian that I know how to do that. That I know how to write a joke and it works. Or doesn’t work. For me, so much is trial and error. And something I think is funny and bring to stage just gets crickets. Or vice versa. Something I don’t have a lot of faith in plays very well.
Was there anything on the CD that you kind of discovered?
A few things that you hear on that album weren’t written and just kind of came out of my mouth. Or jokes that I just hadn’t performed before or literally had just written that day.
That’s pretty ballsy to do.
Well it is and it isn’t. I knew I had an act. And I felt like if things don’t work, I’ll just cut them out. (laughs) That’s the nice thing about audio editing.
I got some sample pages in my inbox the other day for BORAT: Touristic Guidings to Minor Nation of U.S. and A. and Touristic Guidings to Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. It’s been a year since the Borat film and though I think the film holds up for the most part, part of me thinks if there’s a backlash, we’ll see it here. If the repetition by fans didn’t ruin the humor for you, the callbacks from the book will likely ring pretty strong. And even if you can anticipate Borat rhythms, I still laugh when he mixes up things like “martial artist” and “murderer.”
From these pages the Borat book looks like it won’t have the joke density of other works, but the attention of detail still looks to be there in the design. With the askew yellowed pages and distressed type, it certainly looks like a book made in the Borat’s version of Kazakhstan. That can only add to the humor.
It’ll be interesting to see how the second half of the book on Kazakhstan compares with the earlier fake travel guide Molvania, which targeted a fictional slavic country. Most of the sample pages below however are from the U.S of A side of the book.
It looks to be solid bathroom reading - if you can do that without worrying about Borat taking a picture of you “making toilet.”
Take a peek in the gallery below:
After posting about “Comedy By The Numbers”, I discovered a piece of Albert Brooks 1972 directorial debut online, a short called “The Albert Brooks Famous School for Comedians.” This clip setups the ideas and goes into “the take”, mostly the spit take (numbers 143 to 148 in Comedy By the Numbers).
The film was precipitated by a 1971 essay Brooks did for Esquire Magazine of the same title. That’s not online. But in 2002, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross did their own version/homage for Esquire - I have a copy of the article someplace. Until I can find it and get some scans up, here’s a text version, lacking some of Bob & David’s great visual aids. Here’s an excerpt:
What’s so funny about Q-Tips? Nothing ... yet. But what if you were to write some quips about them? Still nothing. Now try spitting out those quips with real venom. Starting to get funny, right? We’ll show you how to use recovered memories of traumatic childhood events to throw onstage tantrums about any and every little thing (the smaller the better). Here’s a bit to try on friends and lovers:
(But first, imagine your mother was raped and killed in front of you. Now use that and commit.)
“What the fuck is up with Q-Tips?! I mean, seriously! Have you seen these fucking things? It’s fucking cotton on a stick, people! And what the fuck is a ‘swab’? Isn’t that something that sailors do to the deck of a boat?! [Grab ear and pull it toward audience.] People, this is not a boat! It’s my ear! I hear through it! Hey, Johnson & Johnson, get your bastard cotton sticks outta my head, matey! No justice, no peace!”
Of course, Odenkirk is directing those SuperDeluxe shorts of “Comedy By the Numbers.” Hmm… if they do a promised second volume of their book, “Comedy by the Numbers” might want to start rule 170 with comedies about comedy.
Update: Eagle-eyed reader Dan Fiorella pointed to a link that explains how the bizarre laugh track got in this clip. The film here is shown as it aired on a Milton Berle talk show focused on comedians and how they make people laugh. Apparently when they ran it, they added the laugh track - which says more than a little about how they didn’t really get the short in the first place. (My apologies to Brooks for doubting him.) The writer Mark Evanier also details that Berle interviewed Albert Brooks for the special and Brooks ran circles around ol’ Uncle Milty. That segment might be worth an upload too.
Filed Under Movies
In the wake of SuperBad success, people are already looking to the next Apatow production, which conveniently enough had its trailer in front of the aforementioned film. The movie is Walk Hard and it looks to be a parody of the overinflated music biopics that have been common the past few years like “Walk the Line” and “Ray.” There’s two trailers out there for Walk Hard and it’s little interesting how they differ in details in setting up the concept.
The first trailer is far more broad, which kind of hints at a more Airplane-esque tone. It’s also shorter by a minute and a half.
The second trailer is longer and far more subtle, emphasizing how closely Walk Hard satirizes the biopics. It’s done in the same tone as one, and thus some of the jokes that are in the first trailer are edited a bit different. For example, Dewey isn’t shown singing as a boy, because it’s so preposterous it ruins this setup. Instead, you get that uncanny blues man look on his face and the fingering on the guitar, which is almost as preposterous but just a better fit for this setup. Another little subtle change is a scene where Dewey’s wife confront him about his dream. In the other trailer, the crying from a ridiculous number of babie is in the background. In this one, it’s not.
Obviously this is all marketing, but it’s interesting to look at the differences because each I think promises a slightly different movie. Are we looking for something that’s more “throw and see what sticks” or a slightly more targeted satire. The punchline comes December 21, when Walk Hard opens in theaters.
Though they rather notoriously got it wrong when they asked “who the next Dane Cook will be”, Esquire makes up for that lack of insight in its most recent issue. (Although the question on the cover - “Can a White Man Still be Elected President?” is quite possibly the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Let’s actually elect a couple non-white males before we even consider if the question is worth asking,OK?)
Anyway, first is the “What it Feels Like” section. And in there, among the descriptions of surviving bear maulings, faulty parachutes and chemical attacks is an entry from Louis C.K. about “What it feels like to bomb onstage” Here’s what he says, in part:
You want to get offstage. But you also don’t want to get offstage till you can solve it. Millions of things race through your head, but it’s mostly visceral. It’s mostly in your gut: Your stomach gets a shitty feeling, your throat constricts, you can’t breathe in a natural rhythm, you’re too aware of how you’re breathing. It’s like being high, but bad. You feel your pulse in your head.
Sounds just as bad as a bear mauling, huh? He also reveals that comics get their asses kicked in Boston for bombing. No wonder people the scene is so good there. You have to be good to survive.
Also in Esquire is a story about the director of the Borat movie, Larry Charles. The reporter follows Charles along on his next project, a comic documentary about religion with Bill Maher as the agitator. The fascinating thing is that it’s rather hard to see what Charles is doing, other than being patient and keeping the cameras rolling so that they’re there when the perfect cringe-worthy moment happens. But that patience is a skill, because really, what made Borat so perfect was the organic nature of it - letting it happen rather than forcing it. These people, given enough rope, will hang themselves. I’m not sure how the same aestetic will translate with a performer like Maher, who’s more direct in how he goes after comedy targets. But I’m looking forward to seeing if lightning can strike twice. This story is not online, so you’ll just have to go pick up a copy at your newsstand to read it.
Filed Under Movies
I posted a link to this in the news section yesterday, but NBC’s dotcomedy just added the uncensored trailer for David Wain’s movie “The Ten”. Plus, they just added the ability to embed video. The trailer is well worth watching. And dotcomedy freeing media up to be embedded is well worth rewarding. So good stuff all around.
God, do I love how the announcer reads off those credits.