After posting about “Comedy By The Numbers”, I discovered a piece of Albert Brooks 1972 directorial debut online, a short called “The Albert Brooks Famous School for Comedians.” This clip setups the ideas and goes into “the take”, mostly the spit take (numbers 143 to 148 in Comedy By the Numbers).
The film was precipitated by a 1971 essay Brooks did for Esquire Magazine of the same title. That’s not online. But in 2002, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross did their own version/homage for Esquire - I have a copy of the article someplace. Until I can find it and get some scans up, here’s a text version, lacking some of Bob & David’s great visual aids. Here’s an excerpt:
What’s so funny about Q-Tips? Nothing ... yet. But what if you were to write some quips about them? Still nothing. Now try spitting out those quips with real venom. Starting to get funny, right? We’ll show you how to use recovered memories of traumatic childhood events to throw onstage tantrums about any and every little thing (the smaller the better). Here’s a bit to try on friends and lovers:
(But first, imagine your mother was raped and killed in front of you. Now use that and commit.)
“What the fuck is up with Q-Tips?! I mean, seriously! Have you seen these fucking things? It’s fucking cotton on a stick, people! And what the fuck is a ‘swab’? Isn’t that something that sailors do to the deck of a boat?! [Grab ear and pull it toward audience.] People, this is not a boat! It’s my ear! I hear through it! Hey, Johnson & Johnson, get your bastard cotton sticks outta my head, matey! No justice, no peace!”
Of course, Odenkirk is directing those SuperDeluxe shorts of “Comedy By the Numbers.” Hmm… if they do a promised second volume of their book, “Comedy by the Numbers” might want to start rule 170 with comedies about comedy.
Update: Eagle-eyed reader Dan Fiorella pointed to a link that explains how the bizarre laugh track got in this clip. The film here is shown as it aired on a Milton Berle talk show focused on comedians and how they make people laugh. Apparently when they ran it, they added the laugh track - which says more than a little about how they didn’t really get the short in the first place. (My apologies to Brooks for doubting him.) The writer Mark Evanier also details that Berle interviewed Albert Brooks for the special and Brooks ran circles around ol’ Uncle Milty. That segment might be worth an upload too.