I’ve been fortunate enough to be provided with a track from Norm MacDonald’s upcoming CD entitled Ridiculous. It’s a bit different from previous Comedy Central Record releases in that it’s a sketch comedy record - though some stand-up of his is on a hidden track. The people performing the sketches with him include Tim Meadows, Molly Shannon, and Artie Lange. This one is entitled “The World’s First Two Gay Guys” and includes Jon Lovitz and Will Ferrell.
Some of the treasures to be found are Gervais’ more British influences. And as someone who consider himself “a cult comedian who got more famous than he should have,” there’s a lot of material there. The most curious to me was Derek and Clive, the alter egos that Dudley Moore and Peter Cook took for a series of recordings in the 1970s that started as an incredibly filthy private joke that became so widely bootlegged that they actually ended up releasing them (Gervais mentions bootlegging them himself). According to the wikipedia entry on the pair the recording of Ad Nauseam features a rant about the death of Peter Cook’s father from cancer delivered with full knowledge that Dudley Moore’s father was dying of cancer. I’m intensely curious and can’t wait to hear them. Sadly the first Derek and Clive Live (Gervais’ favorite comedy album) doesn’t seem to be available over Amazon so you’ll have to be a Acquisition-enabled Gervais to get it.
The second point of interest to me was Gervais’ intention to never do the wonderful series concluding The Office Special. His gateway to creating the special was to acknowledge the reality that there was a documentary crew filming the characters and proceeding from there (leading to David Brent as Austin Powers at a pub appearance, something that will crush any wayward desires to ever yell “Yea Baby!” again). It specifically made me think about the American Office and how, if ever, they should address the camera’s effects on the employees of Dunder Mifflin. If you keep to the reality of it being a serialized documentary, the season ending kiss with Pam and Jim should certainly affect Pam’s impending wedding. As the characters begin to acknowledge the cameras with glances and occasional short conversations more and more, it might be a question they have to deal with. I’d hate to see the show become about reality entertainment however (though Steve Carell’s Michael Scott’s willingness to extend his fame might be hysterical to watch). It may be one of those things best swept under the carpet, particularly because once you open that particular box, you have to keep on dealing with it. But since Gervais used it so brilliantly I wonder how Executive Producer Greg Daniels and crew could handle it.
(BTW, you should really pick up Stop Smiling anyway. It’s a great mag and if you’re a Withnail and I fan, there’s an interview with Bruce Robinson as well.)
iTunes has just added a Comedy genre page, I imagine partially in response to Comedy Central stand-up doing so well in the TV Shows area (though I’d love to think my posts about it recently and in the past had something to do with it.)
The fascinating thing about the page is how terribly undiverse sales can be in comic taste. “Weird Al” Yankovic eats up half of the top 10 songs area. The other three of the top ten are of Dane Cook, who also rules the albums area, including “Harmful if Swallowed” taking two slots on the top ten. (I can’t discern a difference between the two listings. So I imagine, if their sales are combined, they probably sell even more than Dane Cook’s “Retaliation.) You’re even hard pressed to find a cut from Chris Rock‘s recent Grammy winning “Never Scared” until number 20 on the top song list. I imagine this might change now that there’s a comedy genre page with pushes a broader range of releases.
Even with the occassionally undiverse top offerings and sometimes frustrating Chucklehut-style imagery (can’t humor ever be illustrated by something other than chickens?), it’s great to see the rebirth of the comedy record embraced by digital distribution.
Check out: iTunes Essential Comedy Mix
As predicted, Chris Rock won the 2006 Grammy for Comedy for his album “Never Scared”, his third after winning in ‘99 for “Bigger & Blacker” and in ‘97 for “Roll With the New”. Richard Pryor also was posthumously awarded a lifetime achievement award, which was accepted by his widow Jennifer Lee Pryor who recalled what Richard said about the honor: “It’s about fuckin’ time.” (The guy won five Grammys for albums that are sadly mostly available only in the boxed set: “And It’s Deep Too”)
I think the real winner from the Grammys might be Rick Moranis and his li’l bit country/li’l bit comedy album “Agoraphobic Cowboy”, which has seen a bit of press in his native Canada (including Ottawa Citizen and Toronto Star - What? No Backbacon Journal?). The backstory of his dropout of the entertainment industry due to his wife’s death and his subsequent discovery of this little sidepath makes for some fascinating reading. I haven’t picked this up yet, but I’m curious after reading about it. Being recognized for a lark is a wonderful thing.
Chris Rock deserves all the accolades he gets, particularly since comedy, perhaps deservedly, doesn’t have an award show of its own. I don’t think Grammy judges know what’s funny, but I’m divided about whether we need awards for comics anyway. Though it’s cool to get recognized by your peers, comedians are supposed to deflate high status but ridiculous events like winning an award for having the genetic material to make your vocal cords that vibrate just so. Roasts are the perfect comedy awards as far as I’m concerned. Do we need a comedy awards show or not?
Previously: And the Grammy Might Go To…
I imagine it’s pretty likely Chris Rock is lock for this (considering he’s won twice already and still putting out quality material ), with Larry the Cable Guy a close second. Lewis Black has an outside chance, considering the Daily Show audio companion to America the book won last year. I’m a little surprised Dane Cook’s Retaliation, with it being the biggest comedy album in years sales-wise, didn’t make it. Of course, Dane lives in a strange fame forcefield - a number of blog posts I read about his recent hosting of SNL started with “I’ve never heard of him, but…” And of course, it’d be a bit more interesting to see something a bit more experimental and independent on the list, like The Absurd Nightclub Comedy of Eugene Mirman or Todd Barry’s Falling Off the Bone. I know, I know. It rains puppies and gumdrops in my chocolate Shangri-La!
Any favorites in this group? Anything else that should have been nominated instead? Comment below.
Entertainment Weekly asked Aristocrats producer Penn Jillette his top 12 comedy albums in their recent “Listen To This” supplement for subscribers. I can’t find the link anywhere on their site, so I thought I’d list them here, as I think they’d be quite educational to any comedian or comedy writer.
The interesting thing about Penn’s descriptions of the albums (which I won’t type) is that he mentions memorizing almost half of them. Though obviously doing someone else’s material is wrong, memorizing a comedy album is learning by doing, imitating. Here’s the list:
UPDATE: Entertainment Weekly finally put Penn’s Choices up on their website.
Shout Factory just put out a huge six disc set of Lenny Bruce’s comedy entitled Let The Buyer Beware. Great for any comedy completists who need to know who created the path stand-ups tread today, whether they know it or not. I admire Shout Factory for making such a (along with my blessed Freaks and Geeks DVDs. Rock!), but I wish they put longer previews of Lenny’s tracks on its web page. You see, back in the day, people were actually willing to wait through a long setup. But today, we only get a minute or so to see if we like anything. It would be nice to hear enough so unfamiliar buyers could get a real taste of the man. Still, you get a taste of Lenny’s rhythms with this excerpt of “To Is A Preposition; Come Is A Verb.” (quicktime audio file)