Glad you asked. First of all, he’s gotten a book deal:
Writer/star of both his own Comedy Central special and the recent Live At The Purple Onion DVD Zach Galifianakis’s ZACH GALIFIANAKIS: Comedians Of Comedy, a humorous sequence of essays and musings that shed some light on his magical beard, to Ben Greenberg at Grand Central, by Sally Willcox at CAA (World).
Hard to say how good that will be. Galifianakis material is mostly one-liners, briliant one-liner. He’s also highly improvisational. Will that work as a book?
Also, he’s staring in the upcoming Visioneers, which has cult written all over it. Zach stars as a mid-level office worker who’s worried he’s going to explode. And he appears to have dreams that he’s George Washington.
There’s a level of distance that’s all over this, but it’ll be interesting to see if that’s because of quirk or because that’s the only way to deal with the things George is feeling.
And, when he’s not doing those, he’s making college girls uncomfortable…
Aspen and comedy will keep their somewhat surprising association thanks to the Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival, which fills in for the recently abandoned U.S. Comedy Arts Festival run by HBO. The new fest takes place at the end of this month on the 30th and 31st.
I’m not sure about keeping up a comedy fest in Aspen, other than the sentimental and promotional reasons. The place is still expensive. But on the plus side, the fest is not being held during ski season which should help. it also kind of ensures that the people coming are there for the talent, not as an excuse for a ski vacation on the company dime.
A part of the fest will be the culmination of Rooftop’s National College Comedy Competition, where the winner will be crowned from four finalists in two categories:
- Stand-up: Kathleen O’Brien, Tim Ball, Reid Faylor and Mary Sasson
- Short Film: Icescraper! by Mark Potts, The Breakup by Amos Vernon, Actor Hunters: Ep. 1 Pt. 1 by Matthew Schwartz and Car Phone by Dan Perrault.
Previously, there was the suggestion that the stand-ups would perform in a show at the Wheeler Opera House in a show headlined by David Brenner, but no schedule has yet show up. (The other piece of news at the time - that this might be a cleaner festival that the HBO one - is also not clear as well.)
While all the details aren’t clear yet, the invite I received from Rooftop did make one thing clear. Right after the award ceremony, they listed “Games & Cake.” Yea! and Yum!
During last week’s episode of “Real Time”, one of Bill Maher‘s guests Esai Morales made reference to a documentary called “American Drug War”, which asserts a government interest in the distribution of drugs. Maher quickly called it a conspiracy theory. (And it does sound like one, when its so briefly described.)
A regular viewer of Maher show is Kevin Booth, the director of “American Drug War,” who’s a little bothered by having his work being just dismissed as a conspiracy theory. Booth was also close with the late Bill Hicks, producing much of his early albums and recording many of his live shows. He’s continued his involvement with comedy through his production company Sacred Cow, working with such Hicks-worthy successors as Doug Stanhope and Joe Rogan.
The drug war is a little outside the scope of my site here, but Booth made the point that I’m going to focus on here. The director said this in an email to his Sacred Cow members about Maher’s dismissal of the documentary:
I wonder how many people remember Bill Maher’s famous routine that got him fired from ABC -
“Who is the real coward ? when the United States is launching missiles from floating Iron Islands 200 miles away”
as first being performed by non other then Bill Hicks back in 1992
But maybe thats just “Conspiracy Theory”
I don’t have encyclopedic knowledge of Hicks’ work, so I can’t verify exactly what album/performance Bill said this at. But what’s interesting in that it’s probably not necessarily a punchline, but an applause line. A piece of clapter in Tina Fey‘s vernacular. It kind of opens up another target as well as a defense of joke stealing.
Can making a simple observation of the truth as one sees it really be called stealing? Good comics are supposed to see things as they are, can you fault two for sizing things up exactly the same way? When I think about it, I don’t necessarily think of the punchline of the infamous Carlos Mencia‘s “Who going to build the wall?” joke stealing controversy as necessarily funny inherently. People would say the same thing without it being a joke. It’s an insight, a truth. Jokes are exaggeration - stealing an exaggeration seems far more egregious to me ( as evidenced by the subsequent reveal of the Cosby vs. Mencia son playing football routine).
In a sense when a comic is pointing out a repressed fact like these, they’re getting a laugh because of the tension of how we can’t acknowledge that truth in polite society. But everyone who’s hears it and laughs it, has thought the same thing - even subconsciously. Can you slam a comic for saying the unsaid thing second?
By the by, Booth says he really does like Maher’s show, describing himself as a “huge fan” of Bill Maher. He even mentions he just bitching a little to get his attention, obviously to get the documentary seen by more eyes. (It currently plays on Showtime.)
I haven’t seen American Drug War, but I did what Esai suggested and searched YouTube for it. From what I’ve seen, it’s an interesting treatment of the subject, more focusing on the “Prison Industrial Complex” and the corporate interest in the drug war in the clips I’ve viewed. Plus, it’s got comics - besides the afforementioned Rogan - there’s also a lengthy interview with Tommy Chong and a conversation with Tom Rhodes about Amsterdam and its drug laws. They’re in there, doing what good comedians do - telling truths that go unsaid.
An interesting post about directing comedy from Cinemoose puts forward this Buster Keaton quote, “Tragedy is a close-up; Comedy, a long shot.” They argue that it still applies to comedy today. Why?
- Long shots put the straight man in the scene, helping to both set-up a bit and also land the jokes with the straight man’s reaction, who subs for the audience.
- Close-ups put you in the mind of the character, creating sympathy which destroys the distance necessary for comedy.
They use the old banana peel analogy, that cutting the viewers witnessing the fall would create laughter but cutting to the man who slipped would put our emotions with him.
I’m not sure this is true any more. Today’s comedy is a little crueler… allowing us to laugh directly in the face of a character’s pain.
Also, long shots aren’t really necessary to get the reactions in any more. Often that same thing is done in other ways - think of the quick pans in “The Office.” The joke is heightened because we get to anticipate what Pam or Jim reaction might be to the sexist/annoying thing that Michael just said.
There’s a trust today that the audience knows that this is a terrible funny thing, so we don’t need a straight man to substitute for us as much anymore. Often in sketches I kind of prefer it if everybody in the sketch buys into the crazy thing going on - it makes the sketch get funnier, rather than relying on a character saying, “What are you people doing?” for the jokes.
One trait of comedy that’s also very true today is mimicry. Not so much parody, but a scene needs to be done in the style of drama to make it funny. Besides the acting being played straight, the directing must be played straight as well. It makes the exaggeration all the stronger. Here’s an example, from Human Giant and their sketch “Sketch Artist.” Rob Huebel never breaks the senior demeanor of a cop haunted by his partner’s death and killer and neither does director Jason Woliner, making the arrival of the killer that much more funny.
After introducing the silly killer, they keep up the dark, straight part of the scene with Huebel bleeding. (Human Giant is possibly the bloodiest sketch comedy show ever filmed I think.)
So what do you think? Does Keaton’s maxim still apply?
The filming of Bruno, Sacha Baron Cohen’s follow-up to Borat, recently made some news while shooting in Wichita, Kansas. Besides disrupting a local church Easter play, the crew also filmed a scene at an airport which was caught with this spectator’s video.
It’s a little fascinating to see in this context because though Bruno and his dance partner look silly and it is a funny dance, you don’t really have a joke. What’s necessary for that?
The reaction - the breathless gawking and confused stares. Thank goodness for local news media. Besides quoting anonymous witnesses as saying the antics “almost looked like pornography”, they also filed this somewhat ridiculous report, where they warn audience members that they might be offended, as if two men dressed very silly doing a funny dance was pornography.
Check out Ma and Pa Kettle smiling - smiling! - at 0:59. They sure like pornography, huh? The media doesn’t notice that older couple. Of course, I don’t think the Bruno movie will be showing them either. Maybe those are “look at the fruits!” smiles, but perhaps its genuine amusement at something outside the everyday. No matter what, the ambiguity of it wouldn’t be funny. (I certainly hope Sacha Baron Cohen proves me wrong.)
But it’s interesting how both that news report and, likely, Bruno will rely on the one version of America - that we’re offended or shocked, not that we’re amused and picking up our cell phone cameras. One’s doing it to enforce the status quo, the other to slam it.
Filed Under Movies
I never got to see Mike Myers develop the central character for Love Guru when he was workshopping it at the Magnet Theater, but I heard some pretty positive stuff (includes this and this) that suggested to me that the character wasn’t so much of a broad goof, but played a bit more real like the first Austin Powers movie. (In that film, the central conceit of a man out of his time allowed for some smart gags about today vs. the 60s revealed through character.) It’s hard to see that in this trailer however - which looks to me a lot like Austin Powers 4, even converting the “mole” jokes from the third into the “shrimp” joke of the trailer. But the broader jokes are sometimes the best way to sell trailers, so I’m still somwhat hopeful that the spirit of the live shows is still in “Love Guru.” Still, it’s pretty disturbing to me that the thing I like best about this trailer is Justin Timberlake’s character. Do you feel that way too?