Though I admire The Onion, I pretty much skip over the front page headlines these days. They’re still very funny, but I know their format and voice well enough that the surprise is gone. Instead I head for the AV Club section, which this week features a great interview with Chris Rock.
You definitely get the sense that in the 10/90 split of Inspiration/Perspiration, Chris likes to sweat. Early this year, when Entertainment Weekly dubbed Chris the Funniest Man, the image of Chris treating comedy clubs like gyms definitely came through. With one of his two iPods completely loaded like comedy albums, even his restful moments are absorbed in one thing… being a funny motherfucker.
The Onion interview gives some insights into why that is, with Chris recounting a story Al Franken told him about a major league pitcher allowing some batters hits early on so that they won’t try so hard later in the game. Chris was like that, apparently. It’s a rather strange thing to tell someone and says a lot about the power struggles to get a sketch on Saturday Night Live. (Let a guy have one sketch so you don’t have worry about him writing another… what happened to picking the funniest material?) Chris, obviously, ain’t that kind of hitter no more.
The most intriguing parts of the Onion interview are where Chris Rock smacks down Jay Mohr for complaining about SNL in Gasping For Airtime, including a spirited defense of Ellen Cleghorne (who Jay slags in the book), which argues she had to be damn funny to get on the show as a black woman. Some would argue its the other way around… Comedic Affirmative Action. I don’t think we’ll ever know how funny Ellen Cleghorne is because how good could she be in a organization that couldn’t see how funny Chris was?
The best part, Chris doesn’t say no to a special edition Pootie Tang DVD (though I could do without Pootie 2, thank you).
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As a successor (and possible replacement) of Last Comic Standing, but with an obvious Apprentice twist, NBC reportedly is working on a reality competition to become an SNL player. Lorne Michaels would obviously play the Donald Trump role.
With the enigmatic nature of Lorne Michaels firmly established in the media
along with rumors that Mike Myers’ “Dr. Evil” is just a really great impression of the SNL impresario, why NBC didn’t try this sooner become the question. On the other hand, Michaels trademark unflappability under pressure (to paraphrase a quote I’ve read: “Lorne gets more British every year.”) might radiate too much cool to be a compelling TV-style boss.
Just like LCS, this won’t necessarily find the funniest sketch player, but maybe it’ll give fans and detractors insight into making the show, if the competitions are made relevant at all to the truly destructive pace the show is assembled under. Much as I hate the idea of reality funny taking place of actual funny, I’m curious.
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Not really a Nickelodeon viewer. I’m way out of the demographic and when I was in the demographic, my parents thought cable was a waste of money. So I’m almost a year behind Nick’s discovery of the “Funniest Kid in America.” Her name is Christina Kirkman, and at least one journalist is impressed with her satirical chops. Thanks to the votes of Nick-addicted youth, she won a gig as a cast member of the kinda juvenile SNL All That (I mean juvenile in a good way, unless you think juvenile SNL is an oxymoron in the first place).
Number one cool thing about her, she’s a girl. I think one of the reasons why female comedians have a hard time is that women aren’t encouraged to be funny when they’re younger. So bully for you kids of America. I found what I suppose was her winning video. It’s rather like watching a proto-Robin-Williams on a sugar rush rather than a coke binge. Didn’t catch many words, but watching Christina switch characters was a little impressive and a bit exhausting. (Like I said, not the demo.)
The scary thing: comedian used to be one of those things you fell into after you realized you weren’t good at anything else. Between Christina and a 15-year-old in my UCB improv class, I’ve started to think that’s not true anymore. I ain’t a geeza, but I’m preparing some flashcards of set-ups and punchlines for Toddi or Todd Jr. just in case.
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Last night, I came home to catch The Daily Show and discovered that Blue Collar TV now reruns on Comedy Central. As a former Atlantan and Southerner, I felt the need to rewind the TiVo to see what I missed. (I should clarify that I’m technically more of a son of carbetbaggers, as my folks are Yankees and we didn’t move there ‘til I was six.)
Blue Collar TV isn’t exactly my mason jar of moonshine as far as humor goes. But it’s interesting to watch because believe it or not, Jeff Foxworthy has the all-time best selling comedy album ever. And his buddies Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy are huge themselves. Comedy Central got it’s best ratings ever featuring these guys during a “Redneck Weekend.” With networks always chasing the young male demo, it’s kind of easy to forget what the rest of America finds funny. Sure we’ll make a Joe Dirt or a Ronnie Dobbs, but there’s a sense that to laugh at unsophisticated white folks, the people making it need to be unsophisticated white folk (at least in persona… Larry the Cable Guy probably loves a good Chateau Lafite after doing his Elton John Impression. “He’s queer! That’s my impression of him.”)
Another bizarre fact: Blue Collar TV apparently draws more women to Comedy Central than it’s regular programming. Sure with The Man Show, South Park and others, Comedy Central isn’t always the most appealing choice for women. But I don’t really see how these three guys are. Engvall and Foxworthy are pretty forward about being family men in their comedy… is that all there is to it?
For the show itself, I felt the absence of Ron White (who joined the trio for the Blue Collar Comedy Movie) , who I always found the funniest of them all. It makes sense when I think about it… White’s a bit more Texas renegade to Foxworthy and Co’s southern rebels. He seems to be doing lots of guest shots so I won’t miss him too much (if I watch again, which I might).
Foxworthy started an episode I saw with a stand-up routine that quoted the bible to begin a riff about being “nekkid.” Never seen that before. I found it ingenious in a way. So many people in these country love God (or profess to), having someone a bible verse as a base for some racy comedy (a blurred out naked Grandma and a “risqué” cheerleader routine) seems almost subversive. Almost. It makes me wonder which side of the Parents TV Council’s Best and Worst Shows list Blue Collar TV will ultimately fall.
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Despite recent ungrateful stand-up audiences, Dave Chappelle’s signed for two more seasons of Chappelle’s Show. Chappelle has mentioned the show’s a success because he writes it as if people aren’t watching. Now that he know they are, let’s hope he can forget.
Let’s hope idiotic requests for Tyrone or Rick James aren’t heard on his Showtime special.
Big Ups to Sacha, Ite?
Great (and apparently rare) interview with Ali G alter-ego Sacha Cohen (or rather, vice versa… or not) in the New York Times today. Particularly interesting is the distinction Sacha makes about his interview subjects and other targets being good sports. He says:
I think the term “sports” is wrong because that implies that they are playing along and they realize they’re part of the game. As far as I’ve seen, they’re not.
So there’s a sense with him that just playing along with the character isn’t being a good sport, it’s realizing your being had and playing along anyway. To use the language of improv, the target of the joke would “Yes, And” with Ali G, Borat or Bruno. I’m looking forward to the new season of the Da Ali G Show... there’s too little comedy featuring pranking white fat cats.
Insert Never Forgets Joke Here
Caught the sketch group Elephant Larry this past weekend in their new show “The Crime Machine.” The troupe of five guys put on a really energetic show, with some sketches working simply because of the players’ complete commitment to a premise such as “Fightman and Puncher,” featuring two superheroes who only catch bad guys incidentally because they’re too busy hitting each other. A lot. The video was nicely mixed in, culminating in a tandem bit where all five dance along to a imagined ubiquitous Will Smith tie-in rap for the film “I, Robot.” There’s some clunkers in there, but the highs outweighed the lows. My favorite performer was Geoff Haggerty, who lent a bizarre innocence to a scream of “bloody murder!”
Comedy is Timing. And this is far too late.
Saw this in the bookstore today. The Sitcom Career Book. I see this easily edged out in sales by Reality Casting for Congenital Morons.
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More on SNL, God help us all:
One of the things I remember from that New York Magazine 1995 piece was an irate Al Franken yelling at Janeane Garofalo during a rehearsal for attempting to remember her lines, rather than reading the cue cards. At the time, I bought it, because I’d never seen Janeane do stand-up live, where she’s constantly referring to her notes (at least for what she wants to talk about). Her memory doesn’t seem the best. Her work-ethic may be different because she was an ensemble, but I wonder. Since they both work for Air America now, I imagine any animosity is gone. Common enemies kinda do that.
Also, is it just me, or has SNL sometimes just the biggest Vegas celebrity-impersonator show not performed in Vegas? Original characters happen sure, but so much of the cast repertoire plays with celebrity and political culture that has been beaten to death over the week by Leno, Letterman, Conan, Kimmel and Kilborn that by the time you see in on Saturday, who gives a rat’s ass? With the humor already gone, all you have to admire is the quality of the make-up and if the mimic nails his target’s vocal and facial tics. SNL may be, like Mad Magazine, a victim of its own success.