Going for Broke: Charlie Callas and Kristen Schaal

Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy

At the previously mentioned Friars Club event, I talked to Drink at Work’s Carol Hartsell a little bit about the following clip. I found it on Mark Evanier’s website. It features Charlie Callas in a bit from Johnny Carson era of the Tonight Show. Mark says he was there on the night of the taping and had never seen a human being laugh as hard as Carson did at the following bit.

Callas pretty much goes nuts on stage there, exaggerating the physicality of the bit to the nth degree. No wonder it hit Carson so hard. Callas fucking committed. One of the things I voiced to Carol was how I worried that some alternative comics today, in order to not appear desperate for a laugh, wouldn’t go for broke like this.

And then I saw Kristen Schaal and Kurt Braunohler‘s appearance at the 2008 Melbourne Comedy Festival gala. They did “Kristin Schaal is a Horse”...

So I stopped worrying.

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Posted by comedyfan on 04/26  at  10:22 PM

the difference between the two clips being…Callas’s performance included a JOKE with a (gasp) HUMOROUS POINT OF VIEW.  A better question would be “Would an alt performer ever give such a physical performance earnestly, without it having to be some kind of ironic anti-performance?”

Posted by Peter Lynn on 04/29  at  04:24 PM

I don’t know about alternative comics, but you know who does go for broke with the physicality like Callas does here? Dane Cook, and the comedy cognoscenti crucifies him for it.

(Not a Cook fan—just an observation.)

Posted by jeff on 04/29  at  05:17 PM

you should still worry. i completely agree with comedyfan.

what kristen and kurt did was not funny. it was merely something that a kid would do to get attention - and while i’m SURE alt comics would say “that’s why it’s so great - it just breaks the rules” - i say baloney; stop getting on stage just to fulfill your need for applause - how about you also genuinely put yourself on the line with an opinion, a story, or a joke.

these alt comics LOVE to think they are risky and dangerous, and all it amounts to is “look-at-me-aren’t-i-wacky” nonsense.

so lame.

Todd Jackson
Posted by Todd Jackson on 04/29  at  06:22 PM

comedyfan & jeff

Well… I love comedy that has a point. That has a view. I love it when a comic can get me to laugh at something surprising they’ve noticed that I’ve missed.

But there is such a thing is finding joy and laughter in something completely silly, which is what this Schaal does here. Obviously, both of you think comedy with a viewpoint is a higher form. I, and a few other people I imagine, love something that’s purely ridiculous. There’s something kind of childlike about it… which you perhaps see as childish. The ironic anti-performance part put a bizarrely respectable veneer of what this is.. which is clowning.

I certainly don’t think you have to like it. But I’ve witnessed it first hand more than a few times and each time it makes me giggle maniacally. You don’t have to… but hopefully, you can see why I might.

Peter Lynn
Good point. Dane does go for broke physically. And he is crucified for it. I think because those cognoscenti see it as desperation to cover for something lacking in the written material.

The question then becomes, when does clowning end and desperation begin?

Posted by Chesslee CC on 05/07  at  05:58 PM

“Would an alt performer ever give such a physical performance earnestly, without it having to be some kind of ironic anti-performance?”
  I definitely think it’d be possible for an alt-comic to give such a physical performance—most audiences ought to love it.  But the rooms where said alt-comics work out their material is a different beast all together… one would be crucified by their alt-comic peers for acting out at all and then, after the crucifixion, they’d get called a hack, to boot.

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