Category: Stand-Up Comedy

And Then the Mother Fing… Wait, I’m Telling it Wrong.

Filed Under Movies, Stand-Up Comedy

Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette premiered their new film “Aristocrats” at the Sundance Film Festival. The film is primarily the telling of one joke over and over again by comics as varied as Phyllis Diller, Steven Wright and Jon Stewart. The punchline is revealed in the title of the film. But even if you didn’t know it, the real humor comes from how darkly filthy the joke is told, with some versions including incest, bestiality, coprophilla and whatever else the comic can improvise at the moment.

The MPAA will likely rate it NC-17. If the language doesn’t kill ‘em first.

Shecky Magazine speculated that the film is a hoax, but the traditions of the joke are well established. Probably the most famous telling of the joke was by Gilbert Gottfried during the Friars’ Club Roast of Hugh Hefner… the joke never made it to air of course.

At 87 minutes of the same joke over and over again, the film could be close to a Bataan Death March of comedy, but it might be of the Mike Myers’ school of extended joke, where it because funny because it is so relentless. Personally, I can’t wait to see it. If you want to sample a segment of the film, a link to the “South Park” version of the joke can be found here (highly adult language, you have been warned…).

It strikes me this can be almost a comedic Rorschach test, with the improvised middle section revealing something of the comedian’s own dark weirdness when he or she starts describing the Aristocrats act. Or just a really good excuse to curse. Either one.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 01:57 AM | Comments (0)

Gallagher Busts Heads! Raise Your Sheets!

Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy

Gallagher is pissed. He’s disappointed that in Comedy Central’s 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time, he was only 100. And in this interview with the Oregonian, he proceeds to trash all the names above him (well, those he recognizes… he claims to have never heard of most of them). Letterman only has three jokes. Robin Williams jokes are only “C-level.” Jim Carrey was just embarrassing.

Why Gallagher’s angry about a program that was essentially just another variation of snarky commentators on pop culture artifacts is beyond me. He says New York and Los Angeles doesn’t get him… but he certainly doesn’t get NYC or LA if he takes meaningless programming like this seriously. Judging by the invitation on his site for visitors to claim he wuz robbed (bottom of the page on the right), he’s pretty serious.

Or maybe he’s just deluded and bitter. He’s actually mystified why Tom Hanks and Michael Keaton, who were “horrible” comedians, have film careers and he doesn’t. First, they’re different skill sets. Second, it’s hard to built a movie around “hey, look at this funny looking thing.” Third: Gallagher. In a movie. Brain. Hurts.

Could someone please greenlight “Attack of the Killer Watermelons”?

(Thanks to Mike Sacks for the link)

Posted by Todd Jackson at 08:30 AM | Comments (1)

Git-R-Done, Bitch!

Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy

Being a victim of your success is a weird faux Chinese curse (see Dave Chappelle suffering through audiences yelling “I’m Rick James Bitch!”), but being a victim of someone else’s success… that just sucks midget balls. Comic Doug Stanhope has posted a letter to Larry the Cable Guy, requesting that the blue collar comic die to terminate the “Git-R-Done!” catchphrase he’s sparked.

Stanhope points out that he can’t pause a beat for a joke anymore without a “flag-monkey” or “puddle-noggin” or “albino trailer-parrot” repeating Larry’s catchphrase. Stanhope also admits he’s not any exception to “whoring” (a reference to hosting the Man Show, not Girls Gone Wild), but with Larry the Cable Guy throwing the phrase on any number of T-shirts (including a south-shall-rise-again Confederate Flag version) you might see why “1,000 comics curse you nightly.”

Though Larry ain’t my thing at all, I can’t fault him for trying to ride that pony as far as it’ll take him. Stanhope can take heart that though Larry probably won’t die tragically, catchphrases usually take people exactly where they belong… Branson, MO.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 04:25 PM | Comments (4)

Hecklers, Do Not Cross These Picket Lines

Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy

I can’t listen to it right now (I’m on a low-fi connection this holiday), but NPR has an audio interview with Ted Alexandro and Alan Corey of the New York Comedians Coalition. The page teases that they’re willing to strike to get pay raises. If you got broadband or if Santa or Hanukkah Harry brings you broadband this year, check it out.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 02:36 AM | Comments (0)

Comedians Unite, Demand 10 More Dollars.

Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy

Good article in the NY Times about 300 area comics founding a union to get pay raises for sets, including doubling the weekend rate from $60 to $120 and raising weekday rates from $15 to $25.

While reading the article, one of the first things that flashed in my head was Bob Zmuda’s book on Andy Kaufman. In it, he describes how a 70s boycott of the LA Comedy Store damaged the art of comedy. At the time, the Comedy Store had comics perform for free. Andy Kaufman opposed the ban, believing it would hurt comedic experimentation. His rationale: the more people had to pay for a show, the more conventional entertainment they’d demand from comics. (I’m away for the holidays, so I can’t provide the exact reference. I’ll dig it up on my return.)

I certainly don’t feel this way myself. I do think the price of seeing a show ($30 a person according to the article) does keep good crowds out and makes people a lot more demanding. But there are the alternative spaces out there which allow for comedic experimentation and attract crowds that embrace it. (Something Kaufman couldn’t had forseen in the 70s.)

In a sense, comics at mainstream clubs are getting paid to put up with performing for audiences that aren’t as sophisticated, interesting or intelligent as those in alternative spaces. Raising pay rates may not always be good for comedy artistry, but for the comedy industry it’s a good thing.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 11:36 AM | Comments (0)

“Birth of a Joke” Delivered, 6 lbs, 4 oz

Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy

Caught the rerun of “The Seinfeld Story” where Jerry Seinfeld asserts he knew even as he was pitching it that his sitcom wasn’t going to be about how a comic generates material. He states pretty categorically that no one would want to watch such a thing. (Of course, a two-hour documentary called “Comedian”... that people will watch.)

While I’m not sure people would indulge in a half-hour series about comics developing material, they might view a web short on the subject. Over on aspecialthing.com, they have a little QuickTime movie entitled “Birth of a Joke,” a first in what they hope will be monthly series. In it, LA comic Sari Karplus talks about a new joke she’s has about the true story of her parents meeting. We see her try it for the first time. After sharing what she thought worked and what didn’t, we see her try out the new version a few weeks later.

It may sound a little dry, but if you have an iota of comedy nerd in you it’s great viewing. You almost want to play along and deconstruct with her, attempting to see how everything could fit together. It’s just a great little lesson-by-example in joke mechanics. I’m definitely looking forward to more of them.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 10:10 AM | Comments (0)

Despairhut

Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy

Read an interview with Eugene Mirman in the recent issue of Stay Free. In it, he describes how horrible comedy clubs are, referring to the system of going from opener to headliner “pointless and depressing.” Like many comics he prefers rock clubs, because even though there isn’t a system, they give “just as good if not better exposure.” And I imagine, the audiences are much more interesting as well.

I’ve never been a big comedy club fan myself. The idea of a singular culture product dedicated purely to generating laughs seems to be dying out in our culture. Comedy clubs, like sitcoms, seem a little archaic to me. I think much of it has to do with the presentation of it.

When you go to a comedy club, there an attitude of “enforced fun” that surrounds it. And desperation. With names like Rascals, Looney Bin, Zanies, Yuk Yuk, etc. etc., you don’t need screaming “c’mon, that was funny!” It may seem like a small point to harp on names, but atmosphere and presentation is everything to comedy. I think this banana peel ambiance just creates walls up in audiences, where they go, “Oh it’s funny. Prove it.”

Good comics overcome this obviously. But you look at the way TV promotes comedy in our culture and you’d wouldn’t think anything was funny. The announcer puts on his wacky voice and attempts to sell you on jokes like a laughtrack. There’s the idea that people in this country are so stupid that they have to be told something is funny with indicators like laugh tracks, wacky voices and other symbols. But laughter is a automatic response, it’s not something you can force out with a false atmosphere.

I hope comedy clubs will take cues from alternative spaces like the UCB and create more relaxed environments where the pressure to laugh is purely from the words the comedians are saying and not the CrAzY atmosphere. Don’t tell me it’s funny. Show me.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 06:32 PM | Comments (0)
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