“Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project” portrays a performer who’s one of the last of his kind, but who’s still packing them in today. It’s also a little bit about how casino entertainment has changed (Bob Newhart even sounds nostalgic for how the mob runs a showroom). The doc captures Don’s life story, but it’s not much for looking too closely at why or how Don does what he does.
But considering some of the rarely seen archival footage in the doc, it’s hard to be disappointed. Like this exclusive clip, which talks about Johnny Carson and his relationship with Rickles:
Of course, there’s plenty from contemporary comics too about Rickles influence. Check out the lesson that Sarah Silverman claims to have learned from Rickles, delivered completely deadpan:
Though there much made of how Rickles isn’t offensive when he does his bits about racial stereotypes, director John Landis knows how fine a line that can be and how times have changed. When the infamous Tonight Show cigarette box incident is shown, the part when Johnny Carson imitates a black guy is cut.
The Comedy Festival is a great fest for seeing some big headliners. And they definitely try and bring in some rising talent, quick a bit of it alternative. But Caesars Palace isn’t that great a venue for the later. The shows take place in ballrooms, which sort of works against a lot of the more diverse shows. It’s not the environment for something that’s come out from the edges.
So, when I ended up dropping by a guerrilla late night show from Garage Comedy at The Double Down, it felt like a little bit of what the fest needed – even though the event dealt with one of the most relentless hecklers I’d ever seen.
Comic after comic had to deal with this guy, some resigned to plowing through but a couple of comics managed to break his will. The first was Ron Lynch, who was willing to the crowd to fuck off over and over again, not letting his voice be beat out by the din.
The heckler later had to deal with another female comic, whose name I didn’t catch unfortunately, who chastised the man for not being where he was supposed to me. She insisted that instead of heckling, he was supposed to be fucking her in the alleyway. She didn’t look like she was joking when she said this and it shut the heckler up for the bit as he tried to understand exactly what was happening.
Brody Stevens then managed to drive the heckler out, chastising the filming Garage Comedy crew, yelling, quite brilliantly: “don’t glorify him with a jpeg.”
Rick Shapiro ended the night in a room that even sans heckler, was still loud. It kind of fit the brilliant mind of Shapiro in a way – it was if the Sermon of the Mount was delivered at the upper deck of a Jets game.
It was as close to a hell gig as I can think of, but I enjoyed the realness of it, away from a strip ballroom. Comedy isn’t always clean. Its heart is on the fringe, the dark part where the new bubbles up. It’s a little dangerous and awkward for what it is, not for where it is. Reflecting this better would be an interesting step for the Vegas fest, which put some of that fresh talent inside stale rooms.
Neil Hamburger was already opening the show prior to its 8PM start time. Setups like “Why does God give people AIDS?” still got great participation from a wandering-in crowd. (The answer: “So they have an airtight excuse from seeing the latest Robin Williams movie.”
The show was filled with video from the Adult Swim show along with appearances by many of their discoveries including Pierre getting great applause for “Doo Dah Doo Doog”
and James Quall with impressions of George Carlin if he was in Gone with the Wind:
“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. I’ve thought of much more interesting words to say.”
A bulk of Tim & Eric’s time on stage were as Casey as her Brother running through five (5!) songs as the pair. They came to the stage wearing a train costume, Chinese Dragon style - their movements knocking over “The Comedy Festival” sign, much to the delight of the audience. Included in the set was “I don’t want to go to school”, “No sunsets”, “Right way to Rock and a Right Way to Roll.” The final song, “Hamburgers” saw Casey and his brother (in a bit too brief of a hamburger costume) pelting the crowd with hot dogs. Casey vomiting on stage at the end.
There was a little clean up after that.
Ron Lynch followed with a bit about an “animatronic comedian” who had to re-teach people how to laugh out loud after surgically installed iProds had destroyed live comedy. Among his lessons:
“If everyone else is laughing at it, it must be funny. If only you are laughing, you are crazy and will be put into a small box.
The show climaxed with Tim as a BMX biker attempting stunts on stage. At this point the show had felt a little long and Tim & Eric seemed to know it, telling us “You’re not getting out of here that easy!” and advising ushers to “Lock the doors in the back” and “Turn off the air conditioning.”
Audience members were selected for a stunt - three attendees in white hats (who had previously grooved out to a Beaver Boys video). They lay side by side for a big jump.
But Tim won’t do it, tell us he needs a fourth and that we “don’t have the balls” to be it. At that moment, an audience member rushed the stage to do it, but Tim repelled him quickly with the lack of balls accusation. After a couple of dismissals later (including “You’re a woman!” to a female volunteer), Eric becomes the fourth and lies across the three other volunteers.
Tim, then in an amazing visual feat that must be seen, not blogged, jumps the quartet in his bike. Amazing.
The end saw Tim tells us (and Eric, it seemed) that Eric’s dad has died with music and fog interrupting the confession to his frustration. (See my previous post about confusions between salutes to fake deaths / real deaths). Eric looks sad and then dances off.
Afterward the show, I spoke quickly with Eric about the recent video war on aspecialthing over the message board’s top 20 list. Eric asserted after their video taunts of Eugene Mirman and Andy Kindler that they expect to see themselves at the top of the next list. They believe they’ve said their peace on the matter, but if any other members on the list make videos against them they are ready to respond in kind the same day. Even if that person is #1 on the list, Paul F. Tompkins. Eric: “We have inside knowledge of things with his family. We will take him down.”
Live shows that feature what’s so funny on the web are always hard. Sometimes they turn into marketing/advertising presentations, sometimes they feature guest whose humor is more accidental than conscious. This show dodged a fair amount of that. Hosted by Pete and Brian, the show featured work from the Blerds, John Roberts, Chelsea Peretti, Machinma, Garage Comedy and Funny or Die. The highlights:
The Blerds shared videos made for places outside the web that fell apart before they saw the light of day, including an ad they did for Jose Cuervo because “we’re too edgy for Mexican boose online.” The Blerds also played a video for their late friend Pat Brice. I was happy that no one laughed during the intro for it, so many comedy shows have salutes to faux dead friends now that I’m worried that talk about real dead people might be taken as jokes.
Chelsea Peretti did a live version of “All My Exes” with out web comedy genius ZeFrank as her guest. Peretti reminisced about their good times together and ZeFrank corrected her - when Peretti asked him what he was thinking about in a photo where he wistfully looks out a window, Ze said, “escape.”
My favorite part of the 5 PM show (a brutal time for comedy) was Garage Comedy - stand-up Brody Stevens took the stage dealing with texted heckles from audience’s members and the live player. Stevens talked non-stop, deflecting Twitter-ed bullets like “I don’t think old Blue Eyes would approve of white Jew thighs here” and “I’d rather be losing money downstairs right now” with verve and energy. He even got down into the crowd and requested old-fashioned verbal heckling.
Funny or Die demonstrated how the Internet was destroying the environment, presenting pictorial evidence of Google dumping baby polar bears onto ice floes every time someone searches for their own name. They then debuted a new video showing their own commitment to Mother Earth featuring The Green Team (Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly and Adam McKay). I’d embed here, but the video hasn’t made it to the web yet. But here’s a quote from it:
Make love to Mother Earth. Make a small hole, fill it with a little bit of water for lubrication and go to town.
Update: Funny or Die has posted the “Green Team” video. Here it is:
Since everyone’s a little YouTube crazy lately, it’s only natural that festival organizers would try and see if some of this new media would translate live for an audience. Though I didn’t catch the whole event, from what I saw it seems that, for the most part, this stuff is best kept on the web…
The event was hosted by Judson Laipply, whose “Evolution of Dance” video, while not funny, is rather amazing to witness. He gave an explanation of viral videos that traced the idea back to the 70s to trading cassettes that made me think of Mr. Show’s “Underground Tape Railroad” sketch (which, in what seems like a very meta joke, you can watch on YouTube).
First up was the Numa Numa’s Gary Brolsma. The guy who “singlehandedly justified the existence of webcams” took the stage with Vegas-appropriate scantily clad backup dancers which gave me a big laugh. And then… well, it was him lip syncing the song. There was none of the fist pumping, unselfconscious dance moves that made the original fun to watch. Numa Numa’s one of those things that work in that contained, surprise way online and then, that’s it, there’s nothing else. Gary seems like a good guy though, so if you think you got the stuff, check out his $45,000 contest on the New Numa site to create a new video from another version of the song. There’s nothing wrong with riding something out as far as it takes you.
Then we saw a martial arts demo from EMCMonkeys - which fits into Viral Videos but with a strained connection with comedy. They’re responsible for the clip Urban Ninja, which is impressive demonstration of acrobatics - jumping across buildings and what not. Sadly, the constraints of the stage (or insurance?) meant that any high-flying stuff was out. Another reason why web stuff works best on the web - the lack of rules. What you could see in the ballroom was pretty good - the last part having the two performers so drained from combat that their last blows lead them to fall to the floor back-to-back in exhausted. Not funny, but definitely impressive.
The Charlie Todd from Improv Everywhere showed up to demonstrate some of his pranks. This part of the show worked because it used the web videos themselves, with Todd providing narration. The good stuff included the 2003 No Pants Subway Ride and Slo-Mo Home Depot. Then he showed a prank he pulled with frequent conspirator Chris Kula while in Vegas at the Caesar’s hotel which involved playing poker in one of the swimming pools completed with dealer, cocktail waitress and many wayward floating cards.
I had to run at that point to catch another arguably web-based phenomenon Dane Cook and Tourgasm. From what I was told I did miss one of the better performers, Mike O’Connell and Dr. Ken - check out their work if it hasn’t been sent to your inbox already.
Playing catch-up here with The Comedy Festival coverage. This was the best show of the fest so far to my mind. Just incredible stand-up.
First up was Daniel Tosh, who happily informed us he would be up for 20 minutes but I could easily enjoy an hour with him. His style brings a rabid fire cascade of perspective switches and changes so that good jokes accumulate on top of good jokes, eventually just destroying any possibility of breathing normally. He begins a response to Canadians who like seasons with “I love seasons too. That’s why I live in places that skip the shitty ones” and the jokes eventually flow into describing how you become so snowbound that you have to bash your wife’s head to see any color. He goes to dark places but with an energy that doesn’t feel artificial or contrived.
Louis C.K. took a stage and was very complimentary to Tosh: “He used to suck. Now I can only resent him. Fucking faggot.” Much of his set was new to me and imagine will be part of his upcoming one-hour special for HBO. If you saw Comic Relief, you caught a couple parts of it including a guy telling him to suck a bag a dicks and the saddest handjob ever. Much of the fun for me was watching his asides like this one about parents not wanting to tell their kids about gay marriage:
You don’t want to talk to your ugly kid for eight minutes. Fuck your kid. I hope he dies. That faggot. (off audience’s uncomfortable laughter) Called the kid a faggot. Fuck it. I’ll rape that kid on stage. It’s make believe. It’s meaningless.”
And then there was Attell, who writes some of the most wonderfully dirty jokes I’ve ever heard. And many are incredibly inventive creating pictures that you can’t get out of your head, no matter how much you try. He even acknowledged this at one point with this bit about trying to describe how sweet pineapple is:
“If Santa had a pussy that would be pineapple’s asshole. You don’t laugh because we’re all wondering what Santa’s pussy looks like.”
Attell can also be blunt too, He also marked that Steven Irwin jokes were funny with a nice bit about how the crocodiles took out a hit on him and the stingray “or as I call him, the Puetro Rican of the sea” filled the contract.
It’s popular to package tours now under “The (blank) of Comedy” now, but with a show like this, after a while, the names of the comics would be all people need to know. If Tosh, C.K. and Attell ever work together under one bill together again, it’s a must see.
Sierra Mist’s Stand-Up or Sitdown Comedy Challenge is sort of the ultimate popularity contest, so before we get to who I think will win, let’s do a myspace friend comparison as of 1PM PST:
Sarah Colohna: 1,012
Jordan Rubin: 3,406
Eddie Ifft: 9,569
Steve Byrne: 16,241
Jen Kober: 25,246
So, a really cynical prediction would be to say Jen Kober’s going to take all this.
To my applause-o-meter, also know as my ears, the winner is likely to be Steve Byrne who got the best reaction at the show itself. I’m not sure if that came through the TBS broadcast - maybe they sweetened all the laughs, I haven’t seen it. But that’s what sounded the loudest. That said, Jen Kober’s performance was the first one to wake the room up.