Filed Under Sitcom
Sitcoms haven’t had much luck in recent years, so the exception of something like “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” makes me wonder why more shows aren’t following in its footsteps. The refreshing non-Hollywoodness of the setting and the completely willingness to have the characters take actions that are beyond the pale, like tonight’s episode where characters get addicted to human flesh. Here’s a clip that sort of teases that setup.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia premieres its 4th season tonight at 10 PM on FX.
The first webisode of The Office went live on NBC earlier. While these two minute shorts are really just methodone for Office addicts, it’s still The Office.. Of course, my first thought any time the shot cut at Oscar was “where were all the other people who work there?” Probably for the best that the next episode looks to be at a bank. Won’t be so focused on the ensemble then.
Nunez does a pretty great Kevin, huh? For every installment, check out NBC’s Office webisode site.
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?
Filed Under Sitcom
I’m not in Los Angeles, so California peeps take advantage of this. Here’s the image released with information on tickets to the taping of Bob Odenkirk and David Cross’s new sitcom, “David’s Situation”:
For those without image support, that’s 310-382-3260 for tickets. Only two tickets per request (and the duo ask you not to hog ‘em). The taping is Friday, May 9th.
If anybody goes, I’d love a report…
Variety recently published a column by Brian Lowry about stand-up being in decline. It’s painfully obvious from the column that Lowry has no understanding of the current stand-up renaissance and boy, have my fellow bloggers been letting him have it: here, here and here. (WhipItOut has a slightly different tact here.) They all make great points, so I fear my post might possibly be just that final kick or stomp to something that’s beaten and left for dead anyway. But it looks like too much damn fun not to talk about it.
Lowry’s column states that stand-up is in decline because its no longer a career hop for sitcom stardom. At best, a comic can hope to host a game show. He concludes with this:
Given the potential payoff, there remains a strong incentive to get standup back on its feet as a feeding tube to TV.
And this is the key sentence, because, if anything, this generation of comedians looks at stand-up and television the other way around. Having a TV show is a feeding tube for your stand-up, allowing you to widen your audience and attract bigger crowds. Most emblematic of it is Mitch Hedberg, who, naturally, put this manifesto as a joke:
I got into comedy to do comedy. But when you’re in Hollywood and you’re a comedian, everybody wants you to do other things. They say, “Alright, you’re a stand-up comedian, can you act?” That’s not fair. It’s as though if I was a cook and I worked my ass to become a good cook. And they said, “Alright, you’re a cook. Can you farm?”
Mitch may be gone but that attitude is still going strong. Stand-ups are sticking with the person that brought them to the ball. Many comics who are in stand-up generally aren’t doing it because they want to be famous for doing something else. Those people are gone, now auditioning for reality TV. Stand-up is its own art form again, not one in service to another.
Lowry is measuring on a ruler and seeing failure. Stand-ups are using the same ruler, they’re just at the other end.
Even before winning a comedy Grammy for their EP “The Distant Future”, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords were at work on their self-titled debut album. If they can wake up not-with-it Grammy voters to award them for an EP, what will they get for a full length CD? Here’s a preview track which might be familiar to those who watch their HBO sitcom, as it was featured in Episode 10. It’s called “Ladies of the World.”
“Flight of the Conchords” will “drop” in stores on April 22. More info available at the SubPop site.
Filed Under Sitcom
HBO has picked up Bob Odenkirk and David Cross’s comedy pilot with shooting to start in March. (Apparently, the pair were so excited by the concept - they cranked out two scripts, allowing HBO a chance to pick out the one they thought would be the best pilot.)
This is possibly the best news for comedy geeks Seeing the two creators of the brilliant sketch comedy program “Mr. Show” back together for a regular TV series has pretty much been a fevered dream since the aforementioned “Mr. Show” ended it’s run nearly 10 years ago.
The upcoming series’ name and concept is yet to be revealed. David previously described it as a “non-traditional, yet traditional, yet not really, sit-com.” But they did give out a small preview with the following telling script except:
DAVID: “He burps the Star Spangled Banner. You people love that shit.”
It’s gonna be good to have them back.
Update: Here’s the series concept and working title, via an interview with David on MTV Movies Blog.
It’s currently called “David’s Situation” with Cross playing himself. In the show, the comic has quit show biz and is working for inflight magazines. He lives with two roommates in a gated community, each the polar opposite on the political scale - one left and one right. David: “And I’m right in the middle.” (You can probably tell now which roommate he was talking to in the quote above.)
The show will make fun of sitcom conventions. I’m less certain that, making fun of sitcoms is almost as well-trod territory as the original clichés, but if anyone can find a fresh take on them it’ll be Odenkirk and Cross. More promising to me is that the pair intend to keep the sitcom act break structure and break them up with fake commercials, which will allow the pair to exercise their considerable sketch comedy chops directly. Looking forward to embedding those.