It’s been four years in the making, including a debut at this year’s Just For Laughs festival and a recent “Sleeping While Standing” fine-tuning tour, and yet, as previews for Mike Birbiglia’s Off Broadway one-man show come to a close, the self-effacing comic readily admits he’s still working on the stage equivalent of a final cut. Longtime fans of the Comedy Central and Bob and Tom fave have come to expect such perfectionism from his stand-up, a trait now underlying each measured pause, painstakingly controlled rise and fall of pitch and endearingly befuddled utterance of trademark phrases “I knooow!” or “Oh! No!” And while he’s grown away from a more sarcastic style over the course of four albums, here Birbiglia delivers his most cohesive and introspective material yet.
Sleepwalk is partially comprised of established bits revolving around the theme, as the title implies, of the writer/solo performer’s battles with REM behavior disorder, which causes a person to physically act out their dreams, occasionally resulting in injury or worse. Bridging the gaps, Birbiglia utilizes the storytelling chops most recently featured in April’s What I Should Have Said was Nothing DVD to bring conjoining themes of romantic commitment and father-son bonding into the mix. Though it may be difficult for some to follow the diverging plot threads’ chronology and there are no outright applause breaks, the laughs per minute are strikingly high, particularly for frequent callbacks. He’s animated when it matters, just as he’s quietly – even deathly – solemn at key moments, and longtime fans in particular will delight in mentions of Birbiglia’s brother Joe, as well as a few moderately threatening bears.
Overall, Birbiglia brings no huge surprises to a performance he could essentially do in his sleep (pun intended), but great use is made of a minimal set (blue backdrop, stool, The Promise of Sleep medical reference) and key behind-the-scenes contributors (director Seth Barish, producer Nathan Lane). It’s a compliment to say he delivers nothing more than what is expected of him – that is, a unique, ever-evolving performer who consistently raises the bar for young comics everywhere.
Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy
Why am I excited for an Obama presidency? Because it means I won’t have to sit in the back of another NYC alternative comedy show watching some 20-something white dude who dreams of being “the next Bill Hicks” spout off on how lame McCain and Palin (or Bush/Cheney before that) are.
Oh really, you mean you DON’T think Sarah Palin is smart? And you think she talks funny? And John McCain is old? Thanks for the news flash.
This is lame because:
I get that this guy wants to be “edgy.” But walking into a room and telling everyone there that what they already think is right is not edgy.
Edgy is telling audience members why something they think is wrong, or missing the point, or stupid. It’s presenting a new point of view, not just confirming preexisting ones. You wanna be edgy in a NYC alternative room packed with liberals? Make fun of NYC alternative/liberal crowds. (There’s plenty to mock on both sides of the fence.)
Bill Burr telling the entire city of Philadelphia why he thinks they’re a bunch of “stupid Philly cheese-eating fucking jackasses” (video).
Todd Barry, at a show in Cambridge, Boston, calling out a “narrow-minded fake liberal fuck” for stereotyping the south (audio, starts 1:29 in).
Paul F. Tompkins telling a UCB LA crowd why he hates the odd pets of “crazy hipster alternativo types” (audio).
Chris Rock, in his classic “Niggas vs. Black People” bit, telling a roomful of black people why he hates “niggas” (video, starts 10:18 in).
(Some of those are obviously edgier than others but you get the point.)
Bottom line: If you want to be edgy, don’t come into the lion’s den and make fun of the zebras. Come into the lion’s den and make fun of the lion. That takes real balls.
You can see “We’re All Friends Here” live tonight (Thursday, Oct. 30) at 8pm at The Slipper Room in NYC (show details).
MTV launched a massive Hulu-style music video website earlier this week and it’s pretty great if you’d like to go study that 80s-90s art form (not so much now, right?). But with my interest in the funny, I had to go through and see what comedians are on there. Setting punchlines to music is real dangerous. Watching these will make you appreciate Zach Galifianakis and Demetri Martin all the more. This will probably be the most painful post ever to view in its entirety.
Sam Kinison’s “Wild Thing”
I suppose this one is debatable, but to me this was the biggest sign that Kinison was starting to diverge from the shock and surprise of his screaming to making it all about the screaming and the revenge that went in tandem with it. There’ are no setups in this, just the punches.
Rodney Dangerfield’s “Rappin’ Rodney”
I’ve always throught of Rodney Dangerfield as kind of a transitional comic - one who clearly had borscht belt influences, but who took that rapid-fire gag machine and combined it with the persona driven act of today. It never felt creaky. Except right here, when Rodney one-liners are meant to be a rap.
Jeff Foxworthy’s “Party All Night”
Even when this was made in the early 90s, I don’t think anybody had thought of Foxworthy as a comic with much to say about single life. Wow, look, punks dancing to country music! That’s crazy! Hard to believe it was directed by Weird Al.
Hey, isn’t that Todd Glass as a cop at the end?
Howie Mandel’s “Watusi”
I had never seen this one before, but good Christ is it horrific. It fits his trademark prop-tastic nonsense style, but the non-sequiturs lose even the semblance of charm when set to music. I tried to watch a second time to give a more detailed thoughts, but I just can’t get through it.
Funny thing: Chris Rock also had a video on the new MTV site (and not for “No Sex in the Champagne Room”) but when I went looking for it to write the post, it was gone. Definitely a sign he’s got good management.
Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy
Patton Oswalt at his nerdiest, performing at last weekend’s Blizzcon with jokes about Spider-Man, the suicide of the second Terminator robot and his defense for the wasted lives of World of Warcraft players.
Two more segments in video after the jump includes paralleling John McCain’s life story to comic book super villains and more non-nerd friendly material like Yoshinoya Beef Bowl as a criminal front.
The new site Daily Beast recently presented a video that collect comedy about Black Presidents by black comics. They’ll soon have another segment to cut into the montage, from “Katt Williams: It’s Pimpin’ Pimpin’” which after showcasing a couple of minutes of material on Hillary, talks about Obama.
I think it’s interesting here that even with Obama, that Williams describes himself as confused about the election the whole time. Below, that video from Daily Beast.
“Katt Williams: It’s Pimpin’ Pimpin’” will get released on November 11th, not only on DVD but also on Blu-Ray (for those who really need to see the comic nuance in Katt’s facial expressions).
This is an incomplete transcript. More to come later today. Also later today, the premiere of Louis C.K.‘s new comedy special “Chewed Up” at 11PM on Showtime.
Like a lot of people, I’ve been thinking about the economy lately. You’ve kind of cultivated an audience of parents with kids who are probably worried about this as well. Does this put a little bit more pressure on you to give the people who come to the theater a good show because this is probably a big night out for them?
There’s no doubt about that. I feel way more pressure when they pay that kind of money. And in a theater, the pressure is all on you. There’s no alternate. If they go to a club, they’ve drank. They’ve probably ate.
You’re a part of the show, but when they come to a theater they’re just sitting in these chairs facing you. It’s a whole lot more pressure. You really got to make them feel like that was their night for them. You are their evening.
People come out to see you. It’s one thing if they come out to see whoever’s at the club that night. Then they’re just happy if it worked out. If not, they’re like, “that guy wasn’t as good as other times we’ve been there.”
It’s very disappointing to see somebody who you’re a fan of and have the show be mediocre.
I heard you talk about Shameless and how you look back at the guy differently. Have you already had that experience with Chewed Up?
My life has changed a lot since “Chewed Up” and yes, I have looked back on it and gone, “Ugh, that’s what he was like.”
So each is like a chapter in your life.
In a way. Each one has a different stage in maturity. And each one has a different stage in how I look at things in the world too. I’m obviously I’m still the same person. So there’s continuity there.
I used to see a therapist. And I thought about seeing one again, but then I think, “What am I not saying to my audience?” The process of clearing out my brain of the most upsetting and most real thoughts is how I come up with material. So what would I need to do that with a therapist for?
A while back I wondered how Adam Sandler would be constructing an act for “Funny People”, Judd Apatow’s upcoming film about stand-ups. Specifically, I wondered if his stand-up would be based in a character different from himself and how he could workshop that material. This quick summation in Entertainment Weekly gives an answer:
Adam Sandler’s ran longest and came with a disclaimer: Jokes about being single were based on his character and not Sandler’s real life (though the distinction was less clear with later rants about fame, the paparazzi, and living large).
So it was: Just tell people. Of course, this is at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater in Los Angeles - a venue full of comedy nerds, making is pretty performer friendly. You can say to folks like that: “Hey, I’m not me, I’m somebody else and the jokes are from that vantage point.” And they’ll follow that flow. I’m a little curious if Sandler did (or would do) this if/when he did a drop by at the Improv or the Laugh Factory.
Of course, that doesn’t matter much now as they’re starting to shoot soon. In fact, they’ve begun looking for paid extras to be audience members. If you’re in Los Angeles and are curious, the info is after the jump.