Hey Craig, Would Lizz Blow You Now?

Filed Under Late Night

Late night underwent a sudden shift last week when Craig Kilborn announced he was leaving The Late Late Show. I’ve never been a big fan of the man… the smugness always wore on me. He did seem perfect for the first incarnation of the Daily Show which was more news parody than news satire. He was a modern Ron Burgundy, your local news anchor transported to basic cable.

But I never really saw the point of having him host The Late Late Show. Talk shows at their core are about the person behnd the desk. There never seemed to be much to Kilborn other than some good hair and a desire for a good time. He just never did much for me (or anybody else, if ratings are to be believed). I never really saw him moving on to 11:30 and I imagine CBS didn’t either.

Of course now there’s lots o’ handicapping about who’s taking the spot. The Post puts forth the inspired notion of Amy Sedaris. As a huge fan of Strangers With Candy, I can’t even fathom what an Amy Sedaris talk show would be. She’s an incredible interesting person, but her appearances on Letterman, though charming, play so wacky I have a hard time seeing CBS brass embracing the idea. I’d love to see it if they did.

The Daily News throws out five contenders... some more crazy than the next. Chris Rock? Please. The guy’s been there and done that with talk shows. And he’s bigger than 12:30 AM. If he wanted to do it, he would have gone to Fox a long time ago. Vince Vaughn is a very interesting idea. But I most like the suggestion of Sarah Silverman. She’s incredibly engaging and funny and deserves a bigger forum. I don’t know if her style of comedy would play anywhere but HBO. But again, I’d love to see CBS give it a shot.

With Conan’s contract up at the end of the year, there seems like there could be room for a lot of new late night chatfests. Whoever’s the number two choice for The Late Late Show will likely get Conan’s spot if he bolts for someplace like Fox (or rather bolts for an earlier time, like 11PM). The whole field is completely unpredictable, particularly when you remember that despite all these mechanations, Jay Leno will still probably have the highest late night ratings. Kinda sad, huh?

UPDATE: The headline above is a reference to this infamous Esquire article. (Sorry to overexplain, just want everyone in on the joke.)

Posted by Todd Jackson at 12:35 AM | Comments (0)

I’m Not Chevy Chase and I’m Pretty OK With That.

Filed Under Movies

You know how people complain when comedians try serious roles? All kinds of bitchin’ and moanin’ that demands comics to “just be funny.” Well, there one guy who never waivered from the comedy path. Chevy Chase. Sorta proof you can’t win with audiences, huh? Granted, calling most of Chevy’s movies from ‘85 on comedies is being charitable to the order of Mother Teresa.

Entertainment Weekly profiles Chase, alternatively claiming that he’s loved and hated every paragraph or so. The article concludes that the man is just one good hit from a comeback. (Hmmm, maybe he should try, I don’t know, a drama?) Scanning his imdb entry, I was surprised to see he recently did a film directed by former Onion Editor-in-Chief Scott Dikkers called Bad Meat. I don’t think that’ll be his comeback hit, but I enjoyed Dikkers’ Spaceman and like the idea of Chase doing a black comedy featuring people who live out their days in dangerous, finger-severing meat-packing plants. Check the trailer.

Though the EW article focuses on Chase’s movie career, the two moments that appear to be most embarrassing to Chase were on TV. The first being his quickly-cancelled talk show, which was apparently meant to be a sketch show in the tradition of Ernie Kovacs with “spitting nastiness.” Never seen the actual program, but Chase was completely lost inside the talk-show format. Venomous former SNL Head Writer Michael O’Donoghue, in wicked glee, kept a tape of it by his bedsite. Trio, you have your first program if you want to do another failures month. (BTW could someone start a Classic Comedy Channel, where we’d see Kovacs, Sid Caesar, You Bet Your Life, Flip Wilson, old Carson eps… well, that’d just be swell.)

The second was Comedy Central’s 2002 Roast where none of Chase’s friends showed up and he had to hear cruel slams from relative unknowns who had grown up laughing at the holy trinity of Caddyshack, Vacation and Fletch. Apparently, Chevy turned to the camera and stated “That hurt.” Too bad that roast wasn’t broadcast live, huh?

Considering we got few original SNLers left, I’d love to see Chevy do a role that wasn’t Chuck Griswold or Fletch that reclaimed his comedy legacy.

And then, it might be fun to see if he could fuck it up again, like Travolta did.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 03:39 AM | Comments (0)

Red States Need to Laugh Too, Y’know

Filed Under Sketch Comedy

Last night, I came home to catch The Daily Show and discovered that Blue Collar TV now reruns on Comedy Central. As a former Atlantan and Southerner, I felt the need to rewind the TiVo to see what I missed. (I should clarify that I’m technically more of a son of carbetbaggers, as my folks are Yankees and we didn’t move there ‘til I was six.)

Blue Collar TV isn’t exactly my mason jar of moonshine as far as humor goes. But it’s interesting to watch because believe it or not, Jeff Foxworthy has the all-time best selling comedy album ever. And his buddies Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy are huge themselves. Comedy Central got it’s best ratings ever featuring these guys during a “Redneck Weekend.” With networks always chasing the young male demo, it’s kind of easy to forget what the rest of America finds funny. Sure we’ll make a Joe Dirt or a Ronnie Dobbs, but there’s a sense that to laugh at unsophisticated white folks, the people making it need to be unsophisticated white folk (at least in persona… Larry the Cable Guy probably loves a good Chateau Lafite after doing his Elton John Impression. “He’s queer! That’s my impression of him.”)

Another bizarre fact: Blue Collar TV apparently draws more women to Comedy Central than it’s regular programming. Sure with The Man Show, South Park and others, Comedy Central isn’t always the most appealing choice for women. But I don’t really see how these three guys are. Engvall and Foxworthy are pretty forward about being family men in their comedy… is that all there is to it?

For the show itself, I felt the absence of Ron White (who joined the trio for the Blue Collar Comedy Movie) , who I always found the funniest of them all. It makes sense when I think about it… White’s a bit more Texas renegade to Foxworthy and Co’s southern rebels. He seems to be doing lots of guest shots so I won’t miss him too much (if I watch again, which I might).

Foxworthy started an episode I saw with a stand-up routine that quoted the bible to begin a riff about being “nekkid.” Never seen that before. I found it ingenious in a way. So many people in these country love God (or profess to), having someone a bible verse as a base for some racy comedy (a blurred out naked Grandma and a “risqué” cheerleader routine) seems almost subversive. Almost. It makes me wonder which side of the Parents TV Council’s Best and Worst Shows list Blue Collar TV will ultimately fall.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 04:07 PM | Comments (0)

Network News is what Closes on Saturday Night

Filed Under Late Night, Satire

There’s been talk about the July 28th Nightline, which featured an exchange between Ted Koppel and Jon Stewart that some say outlines the gulf between old and new TV journalism. The description of The Daily Show as journalism gives insight into how low journalism has fallen. Not because The Daily Show is bad journalism, but because journalism isn’t doing it’s job and satire is having to pick up the slack.

Stewart and Koppel debate on what a News Anchor’s role should be. There’s a sense that there needs to be objectivity in news, presenting all sides to a story fairly and honestly. Stewart argues that the political spin machines take advantage of this and that TV news needs to adapt, not only to keep viewers, but to be effective. The audience doesn’t want them to stand idly by when each side presents contradictory facts.

The comedy presentation of news does give interpretations. Stewart rightly states that no one in his audience is coming for news, but they are coming for what they see is the truth behind the news. The real behind the measured coldness of just coverage.

At one point Stewart tells Koppel:

“...you CAN say that’s BS. You don’t need humor to do that because you have what I wish I had which is credibility and gravitas.”

News worries about presenting the truth and thus presents all sides of a story, penetrating none. Satire, while not necessarily giving truth, takes the elements of a story and uses them to illuminate something at their core.Stewart is pushing for Koppel to give more perspective. To bring more of a frame to stories and to call lies when he sees them. The fact Koppel seems to dispute the idea that he could call BS is bizarre when you read a speech Koppel delivered at a dinner of TV News directors that Jon Stewart himself introduced him at. At Koppel’s request! Koppel talks about the need to give news context… well isn’t that just a fancy way of saying “calling BS”?

Posted by Todd Jackson at 12:31 AM | Comments (0)

Chappelle Coming Back… I ain’t typing “Biatches!” It’s not funny unless Dave says it.

Filed Under Sketch Comedy

Despite recent ungrateful stand-up audiences, Dave Chappelle’s signed for two more seasons of Chappelle’s Show. Chappelle has mentioned the show’s a success because he writes it as if people aren’t watching. Now that he know they are, let’s hope he can forget.

Let’s hope idiotic requests for Tyrone or Rick James aren’t heard on his Showtime special.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 01:09 AM | Comments (1)

Team America: An Act of Terror?

Filed Under Movies

Well, no. But a nice inflammatory headline, huh?

In the trailer to their new marionette movie Team America, Trey Parker and Matt Stone promise that George Bush, among others, won’t be happy when he sees the flick. Well, one down and ten or so to go. W. hasn’t even seen it yet and already his handlers are expressing their displeasure.

Though not the first time Trey and Matt have satirized a president, the Bush administration may want to “wait and see it” as Parker suggests. “That’s My Bush” was targeted more at the lameness of sitcom conventions rather than the policies of a President. Though much of the film references the current war on terror, the inspiration for it was action movies, specifically “The Day After Tomorrow” (which they wanted to shoot themselves perfectly straight, using puppets for all the parts).

And Bush isn’t even the flick according to Parker, despite how the website shows a similar looking marionette from the back (he may be added Parker admitted). Instead the main villains (if you can call them that) are the misguided legions of Hollywood liberals, who interfere with the terrorist fighting Team America group in an unspecified way. With a release date of October 15, three weeks before the election, it sounds almost eerily on message with the “heart and soul of America” speeches W.‘s been delivering in battleground states (side note: with red and blue states, why aren’t these states called purple states? C’mon, America loves color coding.)

However, judging from “South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut,” the satire will be anything but toothless. The actual villain implies a certain critique by his selection: Korean dictator Kim Jong II. (Of course, the duo may be done with Saddam Hussein jokes.) And the initial sequence set in Paris sets up parallels with go-it-along cowboy militarism and action movies that are very uncomfortable.

Though at times rumored to be Republican, Trey Parker and Matt Stone are apparently more libertarians. But they both claim people will leave the film wondering where they stand. I’m definitely looking forward to the film, and with the election thisclose, both sides are bound to be inflating their positions. I hope Trey and Matt not only don’t have any sacred cows, but no sacred donkeys or elephants either.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 05:06 PM | Comments (0)

Sitcom’s Great White Hope Gets Some Hype

Filed Under Sitcom

“The sitcom is in trouble” story is both true and in nearly as much trouble as the sitcom itself for one reason: it’s been written for the past five years. There are no more fresh angles. The articles are taking on a last gasp quality. Sunday’s New York Times paints Arrested Development as writers’ best hope at reviving the moribund genre. (And the reporter should know, being a sitcom writer himself.)

I think Arrested Development, though it hasn’t “found an audience” yet (except for highly educated people in a very important young demo like myself… but I guess I don’t count, do I?), has a lot going for it. Number one they seem to understand the comedy is pretty much the art of surprise. Take this quote from creator Mitchell Hurwitz, when he talks about the Sopranos as an influence:

“I love how sprawling it is. And how they can totally surprise you by, say, killing off a character. I want that freedom. We felt: `Wouldn’t it be great if we did a show that actually does change? Where people could die?’”

So many sitcoms rely on stories we’ve seen before. We know from the beginning how they’re going to end. You’ve seen this show before and you’ve seen it done better on Nick at Night. If sitcoms are going to survive, you need to have a sense that anything can happen. Anything.The article also touches on how Arrested Development, much like BBC’s The Office, is shot and paced to look like a reality show. All excellent stuff. But the article also mentions one more item that gave me insight into why the show works as well as it does. All of it’s writers came from multi-camera shows originally (the traditional style used from I Love Lucy to Friends). Yes breaking the genre is great, but only if you know how to build it again. If you know how to tell a story well and pace the funny faster. (Though Hurwitz asserts that multicamera shows get more jokes in every episode than single camera shows, I don’t entirely see it. Maybe he says that because some single camera shows tend to waver off into filmic territory, rather than using the multiple set-ups to create a frenetic gag pace).Fox is doing right by a good show for once (rest in peace, Tick, Greg the Bunny and Andy Richter Controls the Universe). Putting it on after the Simpsons (something Futurama never even got). Promoting it heavily. Getting out a Season 1 DVD right before the start of the second. Now people, do us all a favor and just watch the damn thing?

Posted by Todd Jackson at 12:29 AM | Comments (0)