Albert Brooks Famous School for Comedians

Filed Under Jokes, Movies

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).

Man, that canned laughter sure sounds false - almost excessively so. I think that’s intentional - but I may be giving Brooks too much benefit of the doubt. I’ve never seen the whole film, but I’d love to. If you have a copy, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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.

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Posted by Billy Florio on 08/25  at  01:21 PM

I think that Albert Brooks video is from Saturday Night Live, back when he used to do short films for them.  That would explain the very SNLish canned laughter.

Posted by Dan Firoella on 08/25  at  04:33 PM

For some background on that particular version of the clip, check out:

Posted by Billy Florio on 08/26  at  01:30 AM

Well I’m wrong then.

Posted by Brad on 08/27  at  03:02 AM

Check out this awesome interview with Brooks…

Posted by Rob Rose on 07/30  at  02:38 PM

I am looking for a comedy clip I thought was
on SNL featuring Albert Brooks as a guy who
goes to his doctor and his told his condition
is terminal.  He asks how long he’s got and is
told “5 minutes!”  He says he’s going to cram a a lifetime of living into the next 5 minutes. 
He leaves the doctor’s office and proceeds to
the elevator where it takes forever to arrive
and when it does it’s completely packed so he
takes the stairs.  Can’t remember what happens

Any ideas?


Posted by Saloon Singer on 06/20  at  11:00 AM

This was originally aired before SNL. I do remember one of his films on SNL about a guy who arranges to perform a coronary by-pass but has to wait for the anesthesiologist to show up and entertains the patient with a model of the heart. He does a puppet show. Then, once the operation proceeds, he plans to use some plastic artery he purchased but learns that this is a common pratical joke played on young surgeons. The assistants have quietly removed a section of leg artery to be used as is normal.

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