Category: Movies

Louis C.K. and Larry Charles: Two Reasons to Read the New Esquire

Filed Under Movies, Stand-Up Comedy

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.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 02:40 PM | Comments (4)

The Uncensored Trailer for David Wain’s “The Ten”

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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.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 06:05 PM | Comments (1)

Jamie Kennedy’s Heckler: If You Can’t Say Something Nasty…

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While it sounds like a documentary about stand-up, Jamie Kennedy’s Heckler focuses on criticism in general and ties it with what’s becoming an ubiquitous desire of everyone to be in the spotlight. At 75 minutes, it’s far too short to cover the subject, but there’s a fair amount of threads of the phenomena explored.

There are two inspirations for Kennedy in making the documentary:

  • the heckler as the seeming inescapable part of being a stand-up
  • the reviews of his film Son of the Mask, which aren’t just artistically stinging but also personally derogatory even calling for his death.

Stand-up, because of its intimate nature, is naturally the perfect place to examine why people want to aggressively overshadow others’ talent. There’s no other medium where direct resistance and rejection of an artist’s ideas is possible. And when the jokes are rejected, it feels like a personal rejection and often intended as one.

There’s a lot of videos of infamous heckling here and If you’ve spent any time on YouTube, you might recognize much of it. Included are the video where a comic gets punched by a politically correct patron, the one where the comic hits a heckler with a guitar and, of course, the Michael Richards meltdown of last year. There’s also more than a little joy to be had in hearing comics talk their experiences with hecklers and even some surprising confessions of hecklers’ effects – such as David Cross admitting he considered quitting stand-up for a time.

However, a good deal of the film focuses on Jamie Kennedy’s sit-down with critics of his films. Jamie does have a good point here… so much of criticism is now an excuse for a writer to shit all not so much the work, but the creator. If it’s criticism, it should be an honest assessment of the work without getting into whether the artist deserves to draw breath.

But in Kennedy’s confrontations with critics that thought gets lost, mostly because Kennedy trying to discount the destractor’s credibility by demonstrating their nerdiness or lack of sexual experience. He repeats the same error: knocking down the man, not the work. Anyone can have an opinion about a film, but can he justify why a critic can say that Kennedy should never been born?

At Friday’s premiere screening, Kennedy mentioned that he doesn’t think the film he seems to be defending is that good. I think this admission would be great to have in the film in some way, because it would help put the focus back on the point at hand: why call me a rape baby?

The man who called Kennedy that is probably the best illustration of what most criticism is and why it probably shouldn’t be taken personally. His name is Peter Grumbine and in his confrontation with Kennedy he’s unrepentant – at one point while Kennedy reads a part of Grumbine’s review that mentions he should be dragged behind a truck, Grumbine nonchalantly nods his head in agreement. Grumbine revels in playing the villain for Kennedy here, eagerly telling him that he enjoys pissing off celebs like Jamie. He even has the appropriate facial hair for the role.

I’m actually friendly with Peter Grumbine and what the film doesn’t mention, and perhaps should, is the Peter is a stand-up himself. Letting people in on that would illustrate that criticism has become entertainment itself, following many of the same rhythms a stand-up comic has when he’s making fun of Paris Hilton or George Bush on stage. In a world where anyone could be star, everything we write is an audition for the spotlight.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 06:00 PM | Comments (12)

Found: Sidesplitters starring Lewis Black and Jim Norton

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Lewis Black and Jim Norton star as the far-too-filthy comedy team of Burt and Dick, two vulgarians from the age of vaudeville. The whole thing is too long for sure but there’s some great gems in there crossing the excessively filthy language and humor of today with the stiffness and patter of early showbiz. And the attention to detail in portraying each era is amazing. Jim Gaffigan narrates the whole thing and there’s cameos from Judy Gold, Eddie Brill and Jim David in here. Here’s a clip from Sidesplitters featuring one of their “classic” routines:

Besides this there’s another routine playing on the word “abroad” and a short aside about a monkey who’s a former partner of Burt and goes on to be more famous than him. Putting Black and Norton together is an inspired choice… they’re not two comics I naturally imagine together so it was charming and exciting to see them mesh, particularly in ways that still fit their personas.

Like it? It’s sold with a couple of other shorts on DVD featuring not only Black and Norton, but also Greg Giraldo, Greg Fitzsimmons and Rich Vos at

Posted by Todd Jackson at 07:31 AM | Comments (1)

Inside Joke with Hot Fuzz

Filed Under Movies

On Monday night, Inside Joke moved from its usual confines of the UCB to a movie theater for a special screening of Hot Fuzz followed by a conversation with stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright.

First off, the movie is excellent. The incredible achievement in both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz is that Wright and Pegg do genre parody without becoming Airplane or Police Squad. The situations are played for real - they’re people inside an action movie, even if it is an unlikely one. The action is shot exactly like a Michael Bay movie - almost to its peril because the action is occasionally as difficult to follow. They keep very true to the genre, even nailing the semi-homoerotic element of action movie pairings. Plus, if you’re a britcom aficionado, you’ll recognize familiar faces from The Office, Extras, Peep Show, Black Books and, of course, the team’s own Spaced. It’s about ten minutes too long in no particular place and it’s insanely gory at times, more than the likelier gorefest Shaun, so it sticks out a little. Those are quibbles though. It’s incredibly funny and well worth a look.

Then the Q & A followed. Host Carl Arnheiter kept his own questions short to allow the audience to have a chance to talk to the three creators. Some of the things learned:

  • The homoerotic bits between Pegg’s and Frost’s character is quite natural as in an earlier draft of the script, Pegg has a girlfriend. After she was excised, Nick got quite a few of her lines.
  • Wright and Pegg don’t really think in genres when approaching films, but rather like to shoot movies that aren’t normally made in the UK. No interest in doing work that, as Edgar Wright says, “fishes for Baftas.”
  • Pegg believes it’s a myth that there a big difference in the UK and US senses of humor. He considers a bit like Nick Frost falling through a fence (see trailer above) an “International Joke.”
  • After insulting Dire Straits at shite in Shaun of the Dead had to pay up to get the rights to use the group’s “Romeo and Juliet” for Hot Fuzz.
  • Catering is a rarity on British sets and Simon Pegg’s experience in working for US crews have made him particularly in awe of smoothies. Fame’s effect: Pegg wants to have unlimited smoothies. When Pegg was questioned as to how many he could consume, Frost said the point would be to be able to take one and throw it on the floor if he wanted to.
  • Taught the whole crowd how to say “Twat” the proper British way (it should rhyme with “bat” or “cat”). Then Pegg told us intentionally, and possibly to his wife’s consternation, to “Spread the twat.”
  • The creators think the version they shout for TV might be hilarious on another level with the word they selected to replace the swear words. Their favorite: “Peas and Rice!” subbing for “Jesus Christ!”
Posted by Todd Jackson at 12:39 AM | Comments (1)

Reno 911!: Miami - My Thoughts

Filed Under Movies

Caught this film today in a late matinee. I’d admit that a less than crowded afternoon theater is never really optimum for comedies. Though I’d like to think that we all appreciate a funny film individually - that consensus of laughter is incredibly powerful and can really up the appraisal of the experience.

That’s said, I think Reno suffers a bit in the wake of a film like Borat. Borat - though far more about pranking than sketch - raised the bar on how something improvised could play. Particularly in keeping something outlandish going but while looking real. One of the things that always kept me from embracing the show wholeheartedly is the conceit of being a documentary is far too loose - the antics are allowed to swallow up the format.

Living by the gag is good for the sake of the joke but not for the sake of the whole. For a film, that whole should be kept above all else. When a joke takes precedence over everything else, it becomes a wink that destroys an illusion. I’m probably less forgiving because it’s playing inside the mockumentary format - but with the format now having so many examples of how it can be done - The Office being one - I just don’t see why not just do Reno 911! as a sitcom/sketch hybrid if you’re not going to use the advantages of the filming style.

Naturally, the former State members are masterful sketch crafters and there’s some impressive segments in the film.  One sequence has us watch the officers return to their motel after partying up on South Beach and their various attempts to couple and not couple, culminating in a brilliant funny-sad peep show.

The biggest joy I took from Reno was the fact that they cleverfully found a way to keep a gag in the trailer and make a surprise. In the trailer, while trying to get the attention of partiers at a rap mogul’s residence, Chief Dangle pulls his gun and fires off a round. In the trailer they cut to black and we hear the clicks of various weapons pointed at them. In the film itself, it’s only a little different but the essential structure of the joke isn’t broken. I was just impressed that whoever cut the trailer had the decency to figure out how to show something funny without stepping on a gag for the film.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 05:53 PM | Comments (0)

Mitch Hedberg’s “Los Enchiladas”

Filed Under Movies

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post with a recap of the Mitch Hedberg tribute from the SF Sketchfest, here’s a few clips from Mitch’s film “Los Enchiladas.” Even though Ian didn’t think it was very good, he felt it was still worth seeing just to see how Mitch pervades all the film’s dialogue. Clip #1 features both Mitch Hedberg and Todd Barry.

I’m a little torn myself after seeing these clips. I wouldn’t particularly want to see this in a theater, because I think I’d need the ability to fast forward to the good stuff. There’s three more clips after the jump.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 10:05 AM | Comments (0)
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