Category: Sketch Comedy
Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn and Maria Bamford are hooked up with SuperDeluxe to document their 2007 Comedians of Comedy tour - a la the movie and the TV show. Except it’s more mockumentary than documentary this time, with semi-staged bits from behind the scenes. Here’s the first from Seattle.
I could never do what Maria just did there. Blech.
For almost five years in Los Angeles, Scott Aukerman and BJ Porter have been putting on a show called Comedy Death Ray. The live show is revered in comedy circles for bringing up some of the new favorites of stand-up, many of which get their first exposure to a bigger audience on Death Ray. The show also allows some very funny people like Zach Galifianakis, Doug Benson and Todd Glass a place to experiment and play. Just this week, Comedy Central Records released a double CD set of Comedy Death Ray featuring two different shows with two distinct flavors. Besides being performers, Aukerman and Porter have written for sketch comedy shows like Mr. Show and have an upcoming pilot for Fox called The Right Now Show that just happens to be taping tonight. I talked about both projects with the pair along with the dangers of self-indulgence and the need to stay a little silly.
I’m in New York, so I’ve never actually seen a Comedy Death Ray show.
BJ: Holy… you should kill yourself. No, we taped it.
That’s what’s cool to me. It’s often that these seminal shows are lost to history. People will say you should have been there with the Ding Ho or Luna Lounge. There’s no Ding Ho CD or Luna Lounge CD.
BJ: Or Dane Cook’s bedroom when we opened his mouth, basically.
Scott: You should have been there…
The man is an entertainer.
BJ: That’s a wise start. Shitting on the people on our label.
I don’t think Dane Cook’s going to do another CD on Comedy Central Records.
Scott: I’m sure they still sell the old ones though.
True. How are you putting it together for someone like myself who has never seen a Comedy Death Ray show?
Scott: I would say we had two goals when doing this CD. The first goal is to introduce people who have never seen the show before to the best comics that are on the show. And goal number two is to introduce people that they never heard of before and give you a bit more flavor of what the show is actually like.
And those goals are very much in line with the philosophy of the show from the very beginning. It’s the very best people who are out there…
BJ: Mixed with newcomers.
That’s something I really love, because a couple of these people aren’t often in NY and don’t have their own CD. So I can take that track and say, “Here’s this guy I like” to a friend.
BJ: There’s two different disks recorded at two different shows. And they’re two very different shows. The San Francisco disk was in front of 450 people and was a real professional show where people did their best stuff. So to some people that’s going to be their favorite disk.
The second disk was taped at our all-night anniversary show. And some of those sets are taped at like 4:30 or 5 in the morning, when people are a little groggy and not doing what they would do if they knew it was being recorded. That said, that disk has an entirely different flavor. It’s more experimental. It has more of the newcomers on it. It has people doing stuff that you won’t see on Comedy Central or HBO specials.
The second disk, as somewhat of a comedy snob, is the purer disk. Like Zach Galifianakis’ “Live at the Purple Onion” DVD, not necessarily is it going perfectly, but you get that sensation of what it’s like to be at a live show.
BJ: Brian Posehn went up at 4:45 in the morning. And he gets lost at a certain point. I don’t know if we kept him getting lost on the CD. That joke isn’t as technically well delivered as I’m sure it is in his Comedy Central special. But the whole disk has this looseness and flavor to it where anything can happen that a lot of people will prefer.
I think a lot of time in comedy, you’ll get the end result of a movement. You’ll get SNL but you won’t see Second City and Lemmings before it. And this is a great way that someone can trace someone’s act – “oh, this is where that came from” and so on.
BJ: Then there are other people… I read a review of it today and the guy only liked disk 1. And he was disappointed that Patton Oswalt’s bit was something he had heard before. He only wanted the famous people. He’s like, “Disk 2 is horrible. I don’t know any of these people.”
In three years, he’ll put that same disk back in and go…
BJ: Oh wow! (laughs)
Filed Under Sketch Comedy
When you’re at comedy festival and seeing a lot of shows - sometimes three a day - you miss talking about a couple that were exceptional. I feel a little negligent that I didn’t talk about the Kids in the Hall Just for Laughs reunion show the next day. I’m making up for it now.
The material was all brand new - 90 minutes worth. Most of it was fantastic, showing their instincts to be as sharp as ever. My particular favorites were the following:
- Dave Foley getting recognized by a fan (Scott Thompson) on the subway - which leads to a surprising joke about the late Phil Hartman.
- Foley and Kevin MacDonald arguing over who their imaginary girlfriend loves the most.
- Kevin MacDonald vamping with a song that’s only 3/4ths written, including a missing guitar solo.
- Mark McKinney and Bruce McCullough as a husband and wife seemingly oblivious to their horrifically evil baby and their chosen godparents’ attempts to escape caring for the child. (BM: “But you do crack socially.” MM: “You’re trying to be responsible. That’s why we chose you.”)
But obviously, recurring characters are something fans like to see. Scott Thompson didn’t disappoint with a fantastic Buddy Cole monologue about Jesus Christ being gay, stating that Christ “wanders with twelve other men, drinking wine and washing each other’s feet. I went to a party like this.” But a highlight was definitely the encore, which brought back the Headcrusher character to decimate the cast for their post-KitH career choices. With the amount of cell phone cameras that went up soon after the character introduced himself, I knew it would make its way to YouTube. Here it is:
Though the Kids are talking of doing another tour, let’s assume that this is the end of the line for the Headcrusher bit. Yesterday, a DVD came out of the KitH Pilot Episode - “Headcrusher” edition. Featuring the original Headcrusher sketches, it’ll serve as a nice backwards bookend to the live show bits I’ve embedded above. (The less said about the rap remix on the promotional site for the DVD, the better)
Filed Under Sketch Comedy
Adam Conover of Olde English brought this to my attention. In New York, the Mayor’s film office is/was considering some rather oppressive rules for filming crews - which naturally would hurt a lot of the burgeoning sketch groups in New York City. They made a rap to make their case. Look for cameos of many other sketch groups who also use New York as a backdrop.
Today is the last day to comment, but it looks like Olde English and others’ activism has already had an effect. The commission is re-drafting the rules and when done, will put them up again for another 30 day commenting period. Hopefully, they’ll be open enough that Olde English and others can put their talents to use outside of viral activism. If not, sequel-time - perhaps a R&B riff on shooting in NYC being “Trapped in the Closet.”
A while back, Max Goldberg wrote me about promoting a show of his. Noticing he was from Emerson, a college notorious for graduating a great many professional comics, I asked if he could tell me a bit of what its like to study comedy there. What he sent me, you’ll find below. Recent high school grads considering studying comedy, read and decide for yourself: If you want to see Max perform and you’re in Los Angeles, Max will be playing the Hollywood Improv, tomorrow, July 26 at 8PM.
They (those negative people in your life) say you can’t teach someone how to be funny. I don’t know if they’re right, but I feel like I just got out of school for it. I’m back home in California now after graduating from Emerson in Boston this past May (that’s why it took this long to get back to you). I’m not sure how to describe going there… I guess people who know of it know it’s a pretty good, smallish school mostly known for getting alumni starter jobs in the entertainment industry. Cool thing: they seem to really dig comedy.
Comedy isn’t usually associated with an institution; it’s not something you need to go to college for. Nonetheless, if you consider the size of the student body (barely over three thousand), a surprising amount of content comes out of Emerson. The school has had some part in the birth of a significant number of major comedy careers—in terms of comics, students have included Steven Wright, Denis Leary and Mario Cantone (who were roommates), Jay Leno, David Cross, Laura Kightlinger, and Jen Kirkman (full disclosure: not all listed graduated, but were accepted and attended for a time). A bunch of others write on The Tonight Show, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report. Comedy businessmen Doug Herzog (president of Comedy Central), and Eddie Brill (comedy booker for Letterman) attended the school. Remember that Brokeback to the Future youtube video with fourish million hits? It was from one of Emerson’s sketch troupes, Chocolate Cake City, with other videos from school troupes regularly in the 300,000+ views range. These and other comedy people from the school, collectively, are referred to as the “Emerson Mafia.”
Can you actually *study* comedy at Emerson? Sort of—there are some classes in sketch, improv, stand-up, comedic acting, comedic screenwriting, and a slew of SGA-endowed troupes. The closest I could find was double-majoring in Theater Studies and Dramatic Writing, and minoring in Entrepreneurship. Combine that with getting on stage four or five nights per week, and four years later it’s a reasonably balanced comedy education. There’s no formal major for it (though it’s rumored to happen sometime in the next five years), but that’s certainly in the realm of possibilities.
Emerson might be more appropriately viewed as a talent draft than a college; that is, instead of building scholars, its purpose seems to be selecting a choice group of amateurs with the goal of allowing them to turn into professionals on their own terms—and helping them milk alumni dry.
I think it’s very easy to misjudge Patrice O’Neal as a comic, I certainly never expected to like him as much as I do. But the first time I saw Patrice perform live, I had that moment when you lean forward in your chair, transfixed. I had the same sensation when he did his HBO Special a couple years ago. He’s brutally funny - honest in ways that make a lot of people uncomfortable. One of my favorite parts of his act is how loose it is. I’m sure he has an act built in his head, but he’s one of the few comics I’ve ever seen who can create the illusion that everything he’s saying is off the top of his head. It makes the funny stuff all the more surprising because he appears to have just thought of it - he could be surprising himself.
In the spirit of the age, Patrice O’Neal has hooked up with some white people to do a podcast. It wisely appears to be more about the making of a sketch than a sketch itself - Patrice riffing with his comedy buddies, cracking on their ideas and slips of the tongue. The second installment is below, featuring Patrice and his sketch players working out a sketch about cockfights. And they ain’t talking chickens. Do I need to say it’s NSFW?
The point Patrice O’Neal makes about not being clever about it reminds me a lot of what Louis CK said when he was working on Lucky Louie. Dancing around a topic rather than bluntly dealing with it comedically. (BTW, I dig For Your Imagination’s player - the bar using a condensed picture of the video to create a timeline. It makes very easy to seek and find parts of it.)
After the jump is Patrice’s self-effacing introduction to the whole enterprise.
Filed Under Sketch Comedy
I didn’t go to Aspen, so Saturday’s Sketchfest was my chance to catch the winning sketch group fpr 2007 - Summer of Tears. They didn’t disappoint. There was a fair amount of celeb skewering in the show - but all of it a bit more twisted and surreal. Matthew McConaughey as a monster in a closet and Edward James Olmos saying “holes” are the ultimate rush.
Fortunately for you, one of the funnier parts of the show is out there on YouTube. The people who actually pursue getting on America’s Funniest Home Videos - the ones without dogs, children or hurt genitalia, I mean - what’s their creative process like? This video answers that. Wonderful editing in this.
Sadly, part of the attention to detail in the sketch is obscured by the YouTube logo - the indication that the video was shot on “8 12 91.” (It’s a problem I’ve been noticing in a lot of comedy shows lately - the little “bug” in the corner obscuring or muddying a joke. Networks and web folks - try and stay out of the way of the performers.)