Just watched a rebroadcast of HBO's 1995 Young Comedians Show (it'll also air at 10 p.m. Pacific tonight), hosted by Garry Shandling from the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, and featuring a cast of, would you believe, Dave Attell, Eric Tunney, Dave Chappelle, Anthony Clark and Louis CK. Quite a lineup, eh? We know it's 1995 because Shandling jokes about the O.J. Simpson trial and Lorena Bobbitt.
First up, Dave Attell, and we see some now-classic Attell jokes, such as his take on porn ("whatever a man, a woman, another woman with a penis and a midget do..."), how women have all the power "because women have all the vaginas," why men cannot breast-feed, and on the difference between friends and best friends in moving. Only Attell reacts to and works the crowd. "Oh, I found the level?!" he says at one point. Attell jokes about starting to go bald. Smart, but dark stuff. Still true today. And that's why so many comedians love him.
Eric Tunney is a Canadian, and perhaps the only one from this crop that you don't remember. Although his joke about Hitler ruining that mustache certainly has garnered more than a few fans over the years, hasn't it?
Dave Chappelle, even in early 1995, showed enormous talent, and in his opening line, paved the way for years of Aspen jokes about the lack of black people. But he played it big with a lengthy pause before asking, "Where are you hiding all of your black people?" Sharp material on race. He mentions how he spent three years in a small town in Ohio (which he liked more than he'd let on, apparently), tackles the poor choices made in fashioning Wonder Woman as a role model, and closes with his own superhero, Trick Whitey Man.
Anthony Clark, introduced as the college entertainer of the year, would get the first big break of anyone in this special, appearing in several episodes that fall on the Ellen sitcom, followed by his own sitcom the following year in Boston Common. When I saw him cracking up at his own jokes on a panel of Emerson College alums in 2006, I wondered if he had completely lost it. But here he was, back in 1995, cracking himself up as he joked at length about Oklahoma (a topic that Bill Hicks explored in his young comedians special in 1987, by the way), and being in a bad gang in Los Angeles ("the Lemon Slushies").
Louis CK closed the show, and at this point in his career, he was writing for Conan O'Brien and hadn't been married or had kids yet, so you get to see what was on his mind before his family life took over...and that was...random things about living in New York City, forgetting to have money while shopping, and not-so random (as it turns out now) thoughts about masturbation and sex. He jokes about wearing a bathing suit because he ran out of clean underwear. Which reminds me, I have to do laundry tonight.
In the wake of the departure of the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, comedy itself in Aspen has taken a dark turn. If that previous Aspen Times report on the Aspen Comedy Club's woes wasn't enough for you, then here's the follow-up piece from Friday's paper. Still full of damning he-said, he-said quotes. For those of you who wonder if it's all fun and games in the comedy business.
George Carlin's latest HBO special, "It's Bad For Ya," debuted live Saturday night on HBO. For repeat viewings, it's On Demand and also airing multiple times, including 12:10 a.m. Monday on HBO2 (consult the HBO master schedule here).
If your DVR acted like mine, it cut out early. Ah, the beauty of live TV and its incompatibility with DVR technology. Here are Carlin's closing minutes, in case you missed them the first time around, as I did this morning. Note: Obviously NSFW due to language.
The hourplus essentially is the finished product of material I'd seen brand-new a year ago in Aspen at the HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. Carlin refined the best parts and cut out the filler, going after the BS that we buy into as a culture and a nation, and how we've forgotten to question the BS or teach our children to, either. Religion and child-worship really come into his crosshairs. There's a section in the middle about boring people and their boring conversations that doesn't really fit, at least thematically, but it's a stronger and certainly more accessible set than his previous special about death. And that's even with Carlin talking at length about being old and his friends dying off in the first 10 minutes! Here, though, he turns it into a discussion about what to do with your dead friends and their contact info in your cell phone and email lists.
As I noted above, I had the chance to see Carlin workshop this material at its very beginning, when he read his thoughts from papers on the stage in Aspen. I also got a few minutes to talk with him after that initial set.
Was it a conscious decision to workshop instead of delivering prepared material, as you did when I saw you in Aspen for a free speech panel and award in 2002? "That had a single purpose and a focus and that was the topic," Carlin told me. "It wasn't George Carlin's show. It was me talking about having some freedom of speech and expression. This, obviously, is different. They asked me to do quote-unquote 'My show.' At whatever stage it was in, they didnt know when they asked me to be here. So it turns out they called me at the beginning of the cycle. It could as easily have been six months short of an HBO telecast and it would've been a more finished product. So it wasn't a conscious decision to do anything except show up. And that's what Woody Allen said is 90 percent of success, showing up."
Steven Wright had said the night before on national TV that he considered you the reason he got into stand-up comedy. How does it feel to be an influence on someone who has become a peculiar legend himself in comedy? "That's one I'm proud of. The more frequent thing I hear is, when I came along and started having these HBO shows and I had these albums in the 70s, Richard Pryor and I were in, of a given age group. And then a lot of people came along because of cable and comedy clubs, so they were of a different generation. But occasionally I'll hear someone say that they were, the last little bit of push they gave themselves to go ahead and do this, perhaps because they were, you know, 90 percent there in their minds, was they had seen my career, or they had seen Richard. They say this probably to more than one of us, so you can't really wear it as a badge, but it's true that some people have said that, 'You were an inspiration for me to go into this field,' and I always appreciate it. It's an honor."
Did Wright say what it was specifically about your comedy that he admired? "No, not at the very first moment. What he liked ultimately was the continued output of material. Because I have kind of a comedic diarrhea, I've been able to really produce a lot of material. I've been very lucky to be able to do that."
Jimmy Kimmel's back with new episodes, and tonight welcomes comedian Ben Kronberg. Which reminds me, I haven't seen Kronberg since last year around now in Aspen. Which reminds me, I just uploaded the photos from last year's U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in a new album. Take a look back at the last big bash in Aspen. It's on the left-hand column of my site.
This story in the Aspen Times can teach us a few things. For one, when the show business industry and big-time comedy celebrities aren't in Aspen, comedy is a difficult sell to a small ski town. For another, small-town newspapers really will print just about any bitter and/or petty thing you have to say.
Not sure how long this article will remain online, so all the outrageously outrageous quotes will live on after the jump! Including the horrible puns. By the way, it's David Crowe, not Crow.
We may not have Aspen this winter, but we still have Aspen. You follow? Allow me to explain. After years of rumoring to do so, HBO finally pulled out of Aspen and its sponsorship of the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, the nation's main event for the comedy industry to scout new talent and pay tribute to the best in the funny business. That left many wondering whether anyone would enter the scene and fill the void left behind by HBO. Would there be a U.S. comedy festival? Or would we have to make do with Montreal? Well, neither of those questions have been answered quite yet. But we will have opportunities to gather and make merry, starting this weekend in San Francisco.
SF Sketchfest: The San Francisco Comedy Festival opens tonight with a variety show and party hosted by Kurt Braunohler and Kristen Schaal, and featuring Aimee Mann, Paul F. Tompkins, Todd Barry and Rhys Darby. That fest runs through Jan. 27 with several big events that suggest it's more than just a fest. If anyone wants to fly me out there and offer me a place to stay, I'd be much obliged!
Next weekend (Jan. 16-19) marks the return of the South Beach Comedy Festival, sponsored by Comedy Central, with headliners Louis CK, Kathy Griffin, Katt Williams, Stephen Lynch, Jeff Dunham, Susie Essman, Andres Lopez and Dave Attell. Something for everyone. But nothing outrageously special for people who live outside Miami and South Florida to rush out and get a plane ticket for, necessarily. But good news for the locals and anyone who happens to be visiting that weekend, to be sure.
And then there's Colorado. Aspen, specifically, will trudge on without HBO and the St. Regis Resort (which conventional wisdom was saying could no longer play host for USCAF because it was going to be converted into condos, but online today was still offering me hotel rooms...for $1,100 a night and up!). The Wheeler Opera House tonight offers Laugh Your Aspen Off, a free event with local comedians. Next month sees a four-part series (Feb. 2, Feb. 14, March 1, March 14) called What's So Funny presented by David Brenner with different themes each time out. The first show features "newcomers" Bryan Gutmann, Karen Rontowski and Ryan Stout. The Valentine's night grouping has Joe Bronzi, Whitney Cummings and Dana Goldberg. Then African-American, Latino, and Asian comedy with Billy D. Washington, Felipe Esparza and Kevin Shea. Lastly, "made for TV" with Dan Gabriel, Tim Northern and Tom Simmons. Not exactly USCAF-caliber by any stretch, but it's something for Aspen locals and skiiers who still want to see comedy.
Over at Beaver Creek, though, The New Yorker swoops in during the regular Aspen timeslot with Humor On The Slopes, Feb. 28-March 2, featuring performances by Lisa Lampenelli and Jim Gaffigan, New Yorker cartoonists, a comedy film and more.
Alas, we shall have comedy festivals in 2008. It just won't be the same this year, that's all. Unless the two New York festivals, the New York Underground Comedy Festival in October, or Caroline's larger-scaled New York Comedy Festival in November, can do the trick.
I first met Nick Swardson earlier this year at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colo. We were hanging out in the “Sierra Mist Lounge,” a popular free food-and-grub afterparty area in the hotel, and Swardson and I quickly got into a prolonged chat about comedy and the backlash within the stand-up community against its biggest stars of today (that’d be Dane Cook, Carlos Mencia, and Larry the Cable Guy, all provoking scorn and jealousy for different reasons). And then we got down to fun.
See. Here is a photo of him with a Sierra Mist girl at the foosball table.
Later that night, things got sloppy at the after-after-afterparty – the grand finale bash at the Goldberg mansion up high on the opposite mountain. People hunted and fought over cars to make the trek, and at one point, a woman yelled at Swardson: “I’m not f---ing driving him anywhere!” Owen Benjamin and others tried to defend Swardson, to no avail. Eventually, though, everyone made it to the mansion. And back again. And before we parted ways, Swardson said I needed to remember to talk to him before his tour showed up in Boston (May 5, Berklee Performance Center, $27.50 via Ticketmaster).
Fast-forward to this week.
Swardson already could laugh at himself about Aspen. He said his manager, Bernie Brillstein, worriedly chewed him out about his post-show partying. “The guy who managed Chris Farley and John Belushi is telling me I’m a train wreck!” Swardson said.
It’s not going to stop him from looking for a party in Boston on Cinco de Mayo.
Any chance of you doing anything worthy of being called a train wreck?
“Ah, possibly. But I really only drink. I don’t do any drugs anymore.”
Swardson, 30, won’t have to look far to find someone to party with – his friend and sometime collaborator, Jamie Kennedy, rescheduled his own comedy show at the Paradise to the same time as Swardson’s gig. Swardson appeared in many episodes of TV’s The Jamie Kennedy Experiment, and together, they co-wrote the 2003 film, Malibu’s Most Wanted. I jokingly informed him of this booking situation.
Really, though, doesn’t this just mean there are two Nick Swardson shows on Saturday, since you’ve written most of Jamie Kennedy’s funnier stand-up bits?
(laughing and catching his breath) “No f---ing way! Oh, that’s wild. Holy s---! I don’t even think he knows I’m there. If he did, he didn’t tell me. That’s really wild. What an idiot.”
“That’s funny. When I first moved to Hollywood …they said, ‘Yeah, we want you to be our next Jamie Kennedy.’ I said, ‘F--- that, I’m going to be better than Jamie Kennedy. I told him that and now we laugh about it. He’s always been one of my best friends.”
Swardson explained that Kennedy tried stand-up first at open mikes before getting his big break as an actor in the films, first Romeo + Juliet, then memorably in the Scream franchise. By the time their careers crossed paths, Swardson had the comedy credentials as a national headliner with a half-hour Comedy Central special, but Kennedy had the name draw. So when the pair traveled to the Tempe Improv a few years ago, Swardson found himself opening for Kennedy.
“When he did that club, he was already famous. I wasn’t a normal MC. I was just doing the Improv a favor. It was one of those situations where he could’ve been threatened by me, but he was really nice and cool to me.”
No one can question who the star of this comedy tour is, with MySpace as its sponsor. Swardson said he has put “a lot of original content, like videos” on the site. A lot of the photos and videos feature the comedian without his shirt.
So if you and Matthew McConaughey ended up at the same party, who’d go topless first?
“Wow. Tough question. I would say I would be topless first. But my being topless would probably bum more people out. Whereas his would start the party. Matthew took his shirt off. Hooray!”
Your tour alternates between theaters and clubs. Was that a conscious decision? Or logistics?
“I wanted to do theaters and my agent was like, I don’t know why, but he’s married to comedy clubs. The only clubs I’m doing are Chicago and New York. Whatever. I shouldn’t say anything. I prefer doing theaters just because it’s less draining for me, to do 1,500 people in one night than to perform to 400 people in a club several times in a weekend. Especially since I still go out and party after the shows.”
You began in improv, right? How’d you make the transition to stand-up?
“This is kind of funny, too. I did theater in high school but I joined an improv group. We did a ton of improv, long-from improv. I always looked down on stand-up. Thought it was kind of corny. Remember this was the mid-90s and the end of the boom. I thought stand-up was Seinfeld and Paul Reiser, guys talking about their wives. There was nothing really hip about it. There was a small alternative scene starting up with people like Janeane Garofalo and David Cross…But in 1996, when I graduated from high school, I wanted to take a year off…My improv group folded, though, so I was stuck without a format to perform. I was in Minneapolis. So I went down to an open mike and was going to perform with a bunch of my friends, but my buddies never showed up. So I just went up and performed.”
With two Comedy Centrals under his belt and writing credits on three films (Grandma’s Boy and The Benchwarmers are the others), Swardson’s fan base knows him just as well from his stand-up as they do from his memorable characters – most of them outrageous, like gay roller-skating prostitute Terry in Reno: 911 and the figure-skating stalker in Blades of Glory. He also created a show called Gay Robot.
Most reports say Gay Robot is going to get a second chance as a cartoon. True?
“Yeah, Gay Robot is still alive. Comedy Central had always wanted it animated. So I think this time will be more successful. But I really love that pilot. I really do.”
Have you ever caught any flack from the gay community over all of your flamboyantly funny characters?
“No. It’s usually the opposite. I don’t think you can be more outlandish than Terry in Reno: 911. That would be ridiculous. I was talking to a friend to think if it was the gayest character ever on TV. There’s no gray area to the character. We just did season five and the character has a girlfriend. It’s great. There’s some really funny s--- that we did.”
Anything special about your Boston show people should know about?
“This show I’m really really excited for. I grew up a big Celtics fan. I love the Red Sox. I’ve always had a blast there. The last time I did stand-up in Boston was like, seven years ago. I opened up for Anthony Clark on New Year’s Eve. It was freezing! All I remember is being black-out drunk, eating a sausage I had bought from a cart, watching three or four guys beat each other up. I can’t wait for the same situation to play itself out. Just warmer.”
NOTE: An abridged version of this interview appears in today's edition of BostonNOW.
How did Shane Mauss, a virtually unknown stand-up comedian from Boston in February, find himself telling jokes on Conan O'Brien in March? This photo of him (center) with me and Dan Pasternack of Super Deluxe only tells part of the story.
After the jump, photos of Shane Mauss and friends the night he debuted on Conan!
I got the chance to talk to Rob Corddry last weekend at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen. Nice guy. As funny offstage as he is onstage.
Corddry stars in the new FOX sitcom, The Winner, alongside fellow Boston-bred comedian Lenny Clarke (who plays his father). Corddry cited another local for his sense of humor, his Weymouth North High School friend Raye LaPlante. “He was my best friend in high school. Raye LaPlante is probably one of the funniest people I’ve ever met in my life and I continue to steal from him,” Corddry told me. “We did our first play together, ‘Bye Bye Birdie.’ My first. His first and last. He played Conrad Birdie. I played Albert Peterson.” That was 1989. These days, LaPlante lives in Rockland and is a regional vice president for CIBER, while both Corddry and his younger brother, Nate, are both on primetime TV. He said he remains optimistic about his brother’s show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. “They’re getting pummeled, but I think they’re going to be back because The Black Donnellys did so poorly, ironically,” Corddry said. “They’ll probably be back and hopefully they’ll catch their stride next season.”
Managed to get two clips out of talking with Stephen Colbert in Aspen, one specifically about his desire for a second TV chance with Congressman Barney Frank for the Boston Globe (my first clip for them: the lead item in today's Names column) and a more general Behind the Colbert Report report for Entertainment Weekly's Popwatch blog.
Or a recap of other shows and stuff from Friday and Saturday at the 2007 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival
Colbert received his Person of the Year award from CNN's Jeff Greenfield, as they sat in front of a giant poster/mock magazine cover of Colbert as the Person of the Year with the subtitle: "Not you. Me." A good dig at Time. Also fitting for the Colbert character. He said this was his third time at the festival, but "this is the first time I've looked out at the front row and not seen everybody asleep!" I barely got in, and barely made it to the post-show press opp (my bad on both counts). Very funny and friendly guy. For those of you playing the home game, the Colbert Report writers come up with most of the “Word”s on Fridays, because it can take a while to write the backstory and explanation for each word. Some insightful comments on Bill O’Reilly and Barney Frank. Video tributes from his friends and colleagues. More to come on this in other forums that pay me. But the show was so packed, Colbert made time to give props to people stuck in the lobby.
Fat City Lounge
The title of this year’s late-night show at Aspen, where anyone and everyone can drop in for a few minutes of stage time. Friday night’s hosts Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter joked about the show’s musical theme and riffed on the Irish (hey!?). Charlyne Yi, who played an NBC page on a recent episode of 30 Rock, stepped up first with her guitar and rocked out to a song called "God knows I finished my whiskey." Hmmm. Sketch group Olde English followed with a sketch about the Fernberger family whose condo the troupers were staying at in Aspen, showing off the family's framed photos, posters, paintings, living room chair, track lighting and drapes. Apparently, the HBO folks weren't so happy about the sketch ending with the troupers simulating sex with said items. Either way, what made me enjoy it was not knowing whether the guys really did take these items from the condo or not. TastiSkank brought the funny with songs about "I heart dirty boys," "Hydrocodone," "Please manscape the area," "Oops, I f--ked you again" and "You're the worst sex I've ever had." Showalter had to take off to his other scheduled show, so Ian Black introduced a special guest, screenwriter Joe Eszterhas (as played by UCB's Seth Morris) who read his open letter to Hollywood. Tim Minchin closed the show. In the first 30 seconds, I wasn't sure what to make of this Aussie as he air-drummed, air-guitared and lip-synched. But as soon as he sat down to the piano, everything changed. He can play. He can sing. And he can tell some wickedly perverse jokes. Anyone who can write a peace anthem for the Middle East is good in my book, even if I'm going to keep on eating pigs. So glad I decided to catch this show.
After watching the pilot for this new FOX sitcom that debuted Sunday night (twas funny in an outrageous way, although upon watching it and the second episode Sunday, I've decided that it's entirely due to Rob Corddry and Lenny Clarke), Spike Feresten moderated a panel discussion with creator Ricky Blitt, star Corddry and Seth MacFarlane. "It's sort of a Wonder Years starting at 32," Blitt said. MacFarlane joked about drinking so early in the day: "I drink because I'm comfortable being the only white person in this town." Corddry downplayed all of the roles that are coming his way in movies. "Those nine films, they're all like don't-blink roles," he said.
Best of the Fest Awards ceremony
Hosted by Jamie Kennedy, with presentations also made by Judith Light and William Baldwin. Deciding to sit with Shane Mauss and a guy from SuperDeluxe front row center turned out to be a wise decision, especially when Mauss won an award as the best stand-up of the fest (along with Kirk Fox, who got off one of the funniest ad-libs by saying, "William Baldwin's complaining he didn't win an award? He already won an award. He's not Daniel."). For his part, Baldwin kept cracking jokes, perhaps to let us know that he, like older brother Alec, is ready and willing to do sitcom work! At one point, though, Baldwin stopped to look out into the crowd and saw the fro of Eric Andre. Paraphrasing here, Baldwin shouted to Andre: "You were on fire last night. Do you remember? You crashed the party, holding a sled over your head as you shouted, 'Let's rub boners!'" Um. Yeah. I was there. I remember. But most people in the audience were merely weirded out. Afterward, the guys from Super Deluxe took Mauss, myself and Ben Kronberg out to dinner at La Cantina. Fun, quick Mexican meal, and then Mauss and I raced back to the Belly Up for his final showcase.
Group B: Andy Borowitz hosted this standing-room only stand-up showcase. Erik Charles Nielsen went first, and seemed less intense than the first night I'd seen him, mixing up his material a bit. But the audience wasn't quite ready for him, and his decision to back into an unlit corner of the stage during his closer didn't help, either. Alexandra McHale has some funny nutritional advice, but I had to make a note in my notepad to alert Gary Gulman that someone else is coming for his cookie jokes! Na'im Lynn must really have a problem around the holidays, though he seems nice enough. TJ Miller has so many characters in his act, I feel like I'm watching an audition for SNL. To which Dan Boulger asked, "What's wrong with that?" John Ramsey has so many sharp, solid, clever jokes that he must be introduced to Myq Kaplan to see if they'll either become fast friends or mortal enemies. A poop joke as Russian history? Seriously? Seriously funny. Shane Mauss, fresh off his festival win, got to close the show and was funnier than I'd ever seen him. He threw in some old jokes and some rare jokes. And he had the audience at his bidding.
The parties: The Sierra Mist Lounge in the St. Regis provided a fun and comfortable environment to kick back after the shows each night during the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, although it seemed better on its slower nights (Wednesday and Saturday) than on Thursday and Friday, when it got so packed you could barely move. Met some nice comics (Nick Swardson) and even some nice lawyers (Jeff B. Cohen, aka lawyer to the comics, aka Chunk!). A ping pong table and foosball. Dan Boulger thought he had a brush with Cheryl Hines. Only problem was that the parties ended too early, as the lights came up at about 1:45 each morning. Which invariably led to the afterparties.
The UCB "house" was where it was at each night. Seth Morris and the rest of the guys couldn't have been nicer. The basement hopped. Anyone and everyone would show up (see my earlier post about William Baldwin's party reference during the awards ceremony). And our small band of comedians and merrymakers bonded throughout the week, making for a four-day party. Only problem was that we'd have to shepherd each other back up the icy mountain to the condo.
The so-called "mansion," on the other hand, ugh. Took a lot of effort to get there, by car and by foot. And once there, it really was too large and anonymous to have any fun there. As we remarked to each other afterward, we could've had much more fun at the UCB place. Or even at our place.
We still have a lot of catching up to do, you readers and I, and we still have a lot of partying to do, Mauss and I and the other comics, so there will be a lot for me to bring to you on Sunday. In the meantime, here are the other award winners...
Best Stand-up – Kirk Fox & Shane Mauss
Breakout Award Male – John Oliver
Breakout Award Female – TastiSkank (Sarah Litzsinger and Kate Reinders)
Best Alternative – Tim Minchin
Best Sketch – Summer of Tears
Best One Person Show – Nilaja Sun for “No Child…”
Friday in Aspen: The 2007 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival
Stand Up D
Hosted by Hyla Matthews, who had a recurring bit pretending to go through all of the relationship steps with a guy in the front row. And now for your comedians.
Kyle Kinane. I met this guy the first night I got into Aspen and he wore a bizarre beret that he even said was not a beret. That’s the bizarre part. But when he grabbed the mic and said, “What’s happening, snowflakes and fingerprints?!” I knew to expect some comedy gold. And Kinane delivered, with a sharp self-deprecating style. He might have thought his volcano barbecue bit didn’t go so well, but he shouldn’t worry so much. Good job.
Hari Kondabolu came next, and (full disclosure: condo roommate) he impressed me with his social commentary on the diversity of white people, selling people to India, and immigration.
Then Dan Boulger came up. So rewarding to see him just slay an audience of complete strangers (and important industry types). The audience slowly rose to a boil, and as soon as Boulger’s Bush/Hitler joke landed, they were roaring til the end. Nicely played. Boulger told me the audience reacted similarly the previous time, and he wondered if he should move the Hitler bit up. I said no no. You’ve got it timed just right. Let ‘em warm up to you. By the way, I love Boulger, and I hate him, because he made me stay up way too late Thursday night (so if you were lacking for blog posts, now you know). And now for your next comedian.
Michelle Buteau. Heyhey! What? Hello! The Jamaican/Haitian lady says, “You know how I got so light? It’s called colonialism.” Heyyy!
Owen Benjamin. Opened with a joke about how silly it is that people couldn’t distinguish between Superman and Clark Kent. Followed that with a joke about how he’s tall, so people think he plays basketball. Um, yeah. He did rebound (ahem) with material about his gay and gayer parents. And a good diamond joke. And I found some funny videos of him. So that makes up for his opener.
Lavell Crawford delivered some spot-on jokes about Aspen. “Heated sidewalks?” he said. “I’m telling all the homeless people I know about this!” His closing bit about Subway dragged on a bit, though. Just saying.
Some of you are hungry for this sort of information, so let me just tell it to you straight. Shane Mauss (in showcase group B) and Dan Boulger (in showcase group D) both have performed twice in Aspen, and they're already the talk of the town. Mauss got an early lead on the buzz because he had performed twice before Boulger's group had its festival debut. But they're both majorly slaying. Big time. All sorts of industry attention. The appropriate cliche here would be wicked good. Steven Wright's publicist told Mauss that no less than five people already had e-mailed him saying he had to check Mauss out. Boulger is having to tell people, sorry, but I already have representation.
I'll have a lot more to say about them later, but just wanted to let you know they're representing Boston very well so far.
The trip to Aspen literally is paying off. My first blog post for Entertainment Weekly went live about an hour ago. My alternate subject header for it: Chloe & Rush? Keep dreaming. It's about Mary Lynn Rajskub, silly, whom you already know I saw perform last night.
Anyhow. Read my EW.com blog posting here.
More to come later.
In which the author attempts, despite repeated crashes of his laptop computer, to briefly describe the shows he saw Thursday at the 2007 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival.
Summer of Tears
Southern California sketch troupe mixed it up with videos. One took political TV ads and made the candidates potential boyfriends. Another looked at a botched submission for “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” And a third crudely wondered what really happened during Johnny Cash’s final recording sessions. Lots of sexual material. The troupe made use of one member’s uncanny Matthew McConaughey to good effect, but as my friend suggested, they might’ve wanted to put that sketch last. Later sketches only reminded us how much the guy sounds like him. Odd. Still funny.
Pete & Brian’s One Man Show
Pete is Peter Karinen. Brian is Brian Sacca. Together, they’re funny in a comfortably awkward way. Wait. Let me rephrase that. They’re comfortable in their awkwardness. Which makes their “one-man show” work. Their opening and closing sequences are simple yet creative. Much like their use of T-shirts to identify the various characters in their show.
“The General” with The Alloy Orchestra
A classic silent film by one of the great physical comedians, Buster Keaton, set to live music by Cambridge’s own Alloy Orchestra. Yes, the guy delivering the intro may have said that the orchestra has been in residence at the Telluride Film Festival for 15 years, but Roger, Terry and Ken are based in Cambridge, Mass. If you haven’t yet seen this movie, you must. It’s brilliant. Keaton is full of wonderful ideas and is a master of execution in delivering the funny without saying a word. And if you see this movie, I suggest you see it with the Alloy Orchestra. Their score is on the money. Hearing it live makes you forget you’re watching a “silent” movie. I only wish more people filled the seats at the Wheeler Opera House for it.
Michael Showalter, Mary Lynn Rajskub, John Oliver
Showalter’s 15-minute set includes much I’d seen before, including his musical selections of songs he’s no longer guilty of loving. It goes over much better in the clubs than in Aspen, mostly because the crowd here is, well, not quite as hip. They do seem to know the show “24,” though, as Rajskub poked fun at her alternate reality as Chloe. Oliver deserved to go last. His set showed he could tap into the local oddities that make up both Aspen and the festival, and he swiftly put a heckler in her place. “I’m guessing you’re not in comedy,” he said. “You smack of privileged local.”
Wright showed a more animated and feisty side last night than I’d seen in a while. He tried to deny it later, but bits such as his “Indian midget” joke or his routine about having a son certainly don’t sound or feel like the Steven Wright most people remember. Regardless, the audience lapped up Wright’s hourlong set. For good reason. He began with material familiar to those who’ve seen “When the Leaves Blow Away,” his 2006 Comedy Central special. But midway through, Wright started opening up. No, really. He’d bounce around the stage. He’d laugh. He’d throw his hands in the air. He’d look to the wings. As my friend and fellow Boston comic Shane Mauss noted during the set, “He looks like he’s having more fun.” Good for him and us both.
Host Eddie Pence brought an oddly low-key vibe to this midnight show. The audience brought an even odder vibe. A woman off to the side routinely shouted out, not quite heckling in a traditional sense, but still bothersome. Lisa deLarios went up first, and fared well despite her slot in the order. Taking what might be a typical relationship joke and shifting it to her dog was funny. Her bit about shopping at thrift stores -- “A onesie for grownups?” -- was very funny. Next up, Dan Mintz. Mintz seemingly stared into space while telling jokes he certainly didn’t tell during his appearance on “Premium Blend.” Young Chris Fleming (we go with a title of young when the performer isn’t old enough to drink in Aspen) had a slightly difficult time connecting with this audience, and it showed. Better luck next time. Michael Kosta: Air high fives. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing. But it works for him. Ian Bagg had no trouble at all connecting with the audience, and finally brought some energy to this show. “My career’s going nowhere after this,” Bagg said. Let’s hope that’s not the case.
Thursday in Aspen: The 2007 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival
Before my recap, let's get straight to the latest installment of the Shane Spotlight, in which my comedy condo roommate Shane Mauss describes his day.
“I had some meetings yesterday with people who saw my show the previous night and liked it. Those went extremely well. Met more people. And then I had another show at the Belly Up, which comics have been complaining about a little bit toward being on the hit or miss side. From my experience that’s the way the show has been. But our group had a great show. I don’t think it conflicted with any of the important shows, so that helped a bit. First night I bit the bullet. Last night I went up third. That seemed to be a good spot. I mixed it up a little bit. I did about new stuff for almost half of my set. They told us not to. But I was right. Everything went fantastic. I had a great set. Everyone in my group had a great set. And a bunch of people were talking to me afterwards. They seemed to be interested in what I was doing. I got a lot of new contacts. It couldn’t have gone much better.”
Did anyone give you a pile of money?
“No, no one gave me a pile of money. Everyone talks about that, but no.”
Mauss also enjoyed seeing and meeting Steven Wright, and had this to say about the other shows.
“I’ve been incredibly surprised by the level of creativity by essentially every performer I’ve seen. Every performer different and unique, which is the most important thing,” he said. “I think I saw about eight hours of comedy yesterday -- which is a lot of comedy to take in -- and it was all good. that’s how much fun the festival has been.”
Wednesday in Aspen: The 2007 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival
Twenty-four hours after I boarded a Silver Line bus in Boston for the airport, I’m sitting in a condo on the side of the mountain in Aspen, coasting on my fourth wind into what already is shaping up to be one of the craziest weekends of my life.
Notwithstanding marriage and prison.
And those are two entirely different stories, mind you.
Focus, readers. Focus.
But first, an examination of how we (meaning I) got here.
Listed departure time for my United Airlines flight from Boston’s Logan airport: 7:49 a.m Eastern
Actual departure time: 9 a.m.
Why? After getting out onto the runway, the pilot announced we might have a delay in Denver, so we need to fuel up. Don’t we have enough fuel? Regardless. Or perhaps not without some regard, we taxi back to the gate, put some more petrol into the plane, and finally take off.
Listed arrival time in Denver: 10:30 a.m. Mountain
Actual arrival time: 11:30 a.m. Mountain
Why? See above.
Still plenty of time to catch the 12:43 p.m. flight to Aspen, only the flights are canceled. They’ve all been canceled. Wednesday and Tuesday. What to do, what to do. United Airlines books us on buses, which board and leave Denver from the airport tarmac. Yes, really. Our bus pulled away from gate B73 at 3:15 p.m., arriving at the Aspen airport five hours later, just in time to see the lights of an actual airplane landing there. What? Not that it could’ve helped us. That flight had arrived from Chicago. Apparently, not all planes are created equal, and the new planes from Denver somehow lack the wherewithal to land in Aspen unless the weather conditions are idyllic. Not that this should surprise anyone who has flown into Aspen before. The airport isn’t merely tucked or nestled among the mountains. From the air, you don’t even know Aspen or its airport runway exists until you’re on top of it.
Anyhow, my roommate for the week, comedian Shane Mauss, endured an even more arduous journey on Tuesday. He and other performers, including fellow Bostonian Dan Boulger, had attempted the flight from Denver, only to turn around just before landing in Aspen -- they then had to wait hours for a bus, which took six hours to reach Aspen since the mountain passes, were, um, not quite passable. They missed their official unofficial “warm-up” industry showcase. And they didn’t get their luggage until Wednesday afternoon. So who was I to complain? Exactly.
Anyhow. The luggage arrived with me, and we both made it to base camp, aka the festival and the condo, by 9 p.m., or a half-hour before George Carlin’s scheduled performance.
A brief high-altitude sprint and a well-placed phone call led me to the Wheeler Opera House with minutes to spare. The p.a. announcer noted that Carlin is celebrating 50 years in comedy (as is Don Rickles, subject of a special ceremony and panel later in the week), and film clips displayed Carlin’s transformation from goofball to social critic to what he is now, ultimately a little of both. A critical goofball.
He came right out and announced he planned to deliver 77 minutes of all new material. If the audience didn’t like it, well, please consult any of the seven dirty words.
“The audience doesn’t really figure into my plans,” Carlin declared. “The way I see it, you’re here for me. I’m here for me. And no one is here for you.”
So what about him?
Well, Carlin delivered closer to 80 minutes. He did acknowledge that the altitude might make the gaps seem longer as he caught his breath, and he noted more than once that he would rely on his notes and that this was a workshop. Not a show. But almost a show.
The strongest sections appeared to include a 15-minute riff on the b.s. we accept without questioning it, followed by a 10-minute discussion on people who won’t shut up, and ways to perhaps induce them into silence.
Among the less-successful, completely throwaway lines were a few disgusting street jokes and a joke that literally and figuratively felt ripped from a scene in There’s Something About Mary, as well as an oft-told bit about how all athletes shouldn’t be praising God for their success.
Carlin did share some insight by recasting the nuclear proliferation into religion and class issues, and ended with a different take on human rights.
The workshop should prove useful as Carlin develops his new act.
After a brief break, Carlin re-emerged for a few photographs and a few questions for the press -- the only other media reps there were a woman from the AP and a guy representing Sirius radio. Holding down the anchor slot, Carlin immediately noted my Irish name and Boston reference, asking me what county my family hails from. Carlin also comes from Irish stock. At any rate. Got in a couple of good questions and received some solid answers which will resurface soon enough.
But onto the next show.
Arrived at the night’s last stand-up showcase too late to see Mauss, but saw TJ Miller and Erik Charles Nielsen. Former local Jon Fisch hosted this group. I’d seen Miller and Nielsen before, but only on tape. I want to hold off on saying more until I see that group as a whole in one show.
Boulger spotted me when the lights came up, and we were off to the VH1 party at Bar Aspen. Plenty of comics and industry types milling about, taking advantage of the limited (two-hour) open bar. So Boulger and I didn’t stay long, instead heading back to the St. Regis, where I spotted two civilians talking to Steven Wright in the lobby. Without too much coaxing, I got Boulger to join me in engaging Wright in about a half-hour of comedy talk in the lobby. I won’t tell you exactly what Boulger offered Wright, 1) because I don’t want to spoil the surprise if he accepts, and 2) because I could barely contain myself from laughing at Boulger’s offer.
Everything went quite swimmingly. So much so, in fact, that I implored Wright not to say too much until I could break out the official recorder and notepad for a later date. Even at 1:30 a.m., you have to know when business and pleasure are getting awfully close to one another. Especially in a place like this comedy festival, where everyone feels so comfortable so quickly.
Another area of the St. Regis main floor has become the Sierra Mist Lounge. Ah, the commercialization of comedy. Searching for the appropriate cliché here: Perhaps, the more things change…
The lounge had specialty drinks, foosball and ping pong. Mauss and I teamed up for a friendly pong exhibition against Hari Kondabolu and Chris Fleming. We won. Not that you can win an exhibition. But we won.
Kondabolu also happens to be staying in our condo (or, should I say, I’m staying in his), and he quickly earned good vibes from me when Google notified me that he has New England connections -- having studied at Bowdoin and performed before at the Comedy Studio -- and that he moved from New York to Seattle last year (which, for anyone who knows anything about my own personal comedy history, translates into major bonus points). He and I already have played the name game quite well. More to come on that front, as he gets his first showcase on Thursday.
But the Sierra Mist lounge -- pretzels, mini corndogs and all -- closed all too soon, though, and after more than a bit of banter, we arrived at the UCB house after-party. More comedians, more amusing incidents. Met Seth Morris, artistic director for the UCB’s Los Angeles branch, who informed me that they’re going to launch some sort of “Wicked Pissah Funny” series this spring highlighting all of the Boston comics who’ve migrated to the Left Coast’s La La Land.
But that’s for another day and another post.
It’s now time for the first installment in the Shane Spotlight, in which I ask stand-up Shane Mauss about his day in Aspen -- at the very end of the day. Tonight’s installment occurred at, oh, somewhere past 4 a.m.
First, a news bulletin.
Mauss went up first tonight in his showcase -- biting the bullet, as they say -- only he chewed up the bullet and spit it out, letting everyone know that he would be bringing the funny this week.
So, Shane, how was your Wednesday?
“I woke up in dirty clothes with fuzzy teeth. My teeth were fuzzy,” he said. “I refused to buy a new toothbrush for three dollars because they said my bags were going to be here any minute now. Next thing I know, it’s been two days and I haven’t brushed my teeth or changed my clothes. And then I got all my stuff.”
How about your first show?
“I was the first comedian up after the host, Jon Fisch,” he said.
Had you met him before?
“I’d worked with him in New York a little bit.”
Did that make you more comfortable about starting the show?
“Going up first, I knew that might not mean the right number of people in the audience. I was more worried about people not showing up until after my set. But I almost preferred going up first tonight. I had a good time.”
Did it feel different at this festival compared to other gigs?
“I don’t know if I was nervous or my throat was really dry from the altitude. But I felt different. I felt nerves from time to time. Not that often.”
Whom did you meet today?
Mauss consults the program guide. “I went to Stand-Up A, I liked the bottom three the most,” he said. “But my group won.”
Here is what Judi Brown-Marmel, Levity Entertainment Group partner who signed David and Chris Walsh to her management firm, had to say about the Charlestown brothers who are heading to the HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen... (and this weekend, at Jimmy Tingle's place in Davis Square)
"They're exactly what Aspen is looking for -- they've been able to work out their show off the radar."
"They're not contrived in any way."
"They are doing it for the pure comedy."
"They don't sound like anybody else I've ever seen or heard."
"Their career could ultimately take them a million different ways."
"I think it's refreshing."
"It doesn't feel overproduced."
Here is what Rick Jenkins, owner of The Comedy Studio, had to say about the Walshes getting national success...
"It's all a question of them finding the right venue."
Here is what Lainey Schulbaum, half of The Steamy Bohemians, had to say about them...
"I hate them because they're that good."
Here are three videos the Walshes have uploaded online at vSocial.com...
Make friends with them on MySpace.