Big fan of Baron Vaughn, and that didn't change after last night, based on how he approached the live studio audience of Lopez Tonight. Just the right amount of everything. Managed to make his points while also dealing with a crowd that doesn't keep track of points.
Roll the clip!
Related: You can see Baron Vaughn on your TV on Thursday nights on USA in Fairly Legal.
Somebody let the sketch group Chubby Skinny Kids get their hands on some Ghostbusters equipment...uh oh! In this bit for Funny or Die, they imagine what would happen if the Ghostbusters were a little too into their jobs.
Featuring: Thomas Middleditch, Eliza Skinner and Baron Vaughn. The Chubby Skinny Kids are Dan Gregor, Doug Mand & Adam Pally.
Baron Vaughn and I share many common traits. OK, so maybe the hair isn't one of those commonalities. But we do both have a fascination with, and sometimes crush upon, the women who anchor the TV news. For me, it's for the love of journalism. Obviously. For Vaughn? Well, I'll let him explain in this clip from this coming Sunday's episode of Russell Simmons Presents on Comedy Central. Roll it!
You also can see Vaughn later this year on USA's Facing Kate.
Resisted the urge to delete this email from a publicist for a large corporation, because I could not resist the urge to engage in wordplay. The people at Wheat Thins sponsored this video of comedian Baron Vaughn at this summer's Bonnaroo in Tennessee, interviewing several of the music and comedy festival's spectators. All in good clean fun. Except the mudslides. You'll see Vaughn on your TVs this fall in the USA network series Facing Kate. Roll the clip, obvi!
What do they say about New York City: There are eight million stories, and sometimes it seems as though eight million of the people telling them think they're comedians? No, that's not it. It is a fact, though, that America's biggest city is also its biggest comedy mecca. Hollywood may be Hollywood, but New York City is where comedians are born funny, become funny or arrive to thrust their funny upon us. I think we should meet some of these people. This is a new recurring feature, a mini-profile of newcomers, up-and-comers and overcomers of New York's vibrant comedy scene. It's called Meet Me In New York.
Baron Vaughn (pictured by Anya Garrett) is what we call in the business, one of those quintuple threats. He can write and tell jokes, yes, but he also can act, dance, sing, rap, and has an intangible other quality that probably will revealed to you when you least expect it. You've seen him on Live at Gotham, Black Dynamite, as a talking funny head on VH1. He did HBO's Aspen festival in 2006. You'll see him Friday when The Awkward Comedy Show debuts on Comedy Central, Monday on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, later this month at Bridgetown in Portland, this summer at Bonnaroo, on the big screen in The Other Guys with Will Ferrell, the small screen with Russell Simmons Presents, and this fall in the USA series Facing Kate. So, yeah. The guy's going places. Tonight, you can even see him live in NYC co-headlining at Comix! Let's get to know more about him.
Name: Baron Vaughn
Arrival date: October 2003
Arrived from: Boston, MA via Las Vegas, NV
When and where did you start performing comedy? Boston, MA. A room called "The Vault" beneath Remington's Restaurant on Boylston right in the Emerson College area where every other comedian ever went. It was the summer of 2002. Just got back from a semester abroad watching stand-up and improv every week at the Comedy Store in London and was finally ready to give it a shot. I had wanted to for a while, but I knew that bombing and being awful was a part of the process. Once I got over myself and accepted that I wasn't gonna be a genius the first time I did 5 minutes, I was doing it well like a hook in an LL Cool J song. That song is about comedy, right?
What was your best credit before moving here? Probably "regular around town." A credit of which I was very proud even though it had nothing to do with anything.
Why did you pick NYC over LA or anywhere else? Well outside of saying "New York is the place to BE," I knew, at least for me, that if I wanted to get better there was no other place to go. It's grad school for comedy. I didn't want to go to LA because most things there always seemed more industry focused rather than craft focused. That's NYC vs LA in my opinion. If I moved any place else, it would have been to die.
Good news for comedy fans came late Sunday night with a series order and some additional casting news.
First off, let me say how happy I am that USA ordered 11 episodes, along with the 90-minute pilot for new drama Facing Kate, which stars Sarah Shahi and co-stars comedian/actor Baron Vaughn. (THR) It's a drama, yes. But Vaughn, who has appeared on multiple episodes of the long-running drama Law & Order, is such a great talent that it's great to see a network finally see that and put him on your TV. Don't know if this series will showcase all of his range. Here's what I do know. Vaughn's character, initially written to be a love interest for Shahi's legal mediator, shifted in the pilot to be something else when it filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, over the winter. What exactly, you'll have to wait until later this year to see.
You'll be able to see Baron Vaughn perform comedy on your TV on April 9 with the debut of Victor Varnado's stand-up documentary film, The Awkward Kings of Comedy. Let's celebrate with some "classic" jokes from Vaughn as performed at the UCB in NYC for CollegeHumor Live. Roll it!
In the other comedy TV news, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay have tapped two of their former SNL colleagues to join Jon Heder in the 10-episode series that remains untitled. As reported back in July 2009, Comedy Central ordered 10 episodes (with an option for 90 more) of a sitcom starring Heder and produced by Gary Sanchez Productions. Now comes word that Horatio Sanz and Chris Parnell will co-star with Heder in the project, which will debut sometime later in 2010. (Variety) Congratulations to both Sanz and Parnell! Parnell has been great in a limited recurring role on 30 Rock as Dr. Spaceman, while Sanz has been criminally underrated and overlooked since leaving SNL, even after dropping a ton of weight.
From the mind of Lizz Winstead, co-creator of The Daily Show, and her friends, comes this parody of America's first and only six-hour morning "news" show, Wake Up World. They had been doing this as a live show regularly in NYC since 2007 under the umbrella title of Shoot The Messenger. As a television pilot, however, we go behind-the-scenes of the fictional news network, with hosts Hope Jean Paul (Winstead) and Davis Miles (Baron Vaughn), and featuring, among others: Livia Scott, Sean Crespo, Carol Hartsell and Jeff Kreisler. Welcome to America's worst news network. No, it's not the one you're thinking of. This one is fictional. Maybe. Roll the clips (in four parts)!
If I were to tell you that an upcoming episode of Law & Order (any edition) would feature a comedian in a bit part, then you would say, sure, why not. It has happened before plenty of times. In fact, enough times that the second annual Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival has a themed show called The Comedians of Law & Order, happening Saturday at the Bell House in Brooklyn.
Now in it's what got to be a whopper of a coincidence, the original Law & Order just wrapped its fourth episode of the upcoming 20th season, and that episode, called "Reality Bites" and tentatively slated to air Oct. 16, features five -- count 'em, FIVE -- comedians: Jim Gaffigan, Michael Showalter, Livia Scott, Baron Vaughn and Cole Escola. And there's nothing funny about the episode.
As Vaughn relayed to me -- no spoilers, promise! -- the plot revolves around a family of special-needs kids who were going to be portrayed in a reality TV show. "It's the opposite of funny," he said. "Just tragic."
Vaughn has two lines as a medical examiner. Scott plays the foreperson on the jury, and said being in the custom-built L&O courtroom was something else. "It's so impressive," she told me. She's also thrilled to become part of the L&O fabric. Showalter plays the reality-TV producer, so obviously, he gets to have some villainous lines, even if he may or may not be a villain. But we know in our hearts he's a hero, because he provided us with these lovely photos from the set via Twitter (@mshowalter)! Escola (Logo's new Jeffery and Cole Casserole) plays an autistic son of Gaffigan's character, and Escola wrote on his blog, "I have dialogue and a couple of scenes and that's all I should say because I don't want to give away any of the plot. I'm all wet 'n' sticky with excitement!!"
For Gaffigan, this Law & Order stuff must be old hat, right? He has been on regular L&O, SVU and Criminal Intent. He told me that walking onto the set and seeing so many familiar faces from comedy was a treat, but it wasn't intentional by any means. "We all got the jobs. It wasn't like, wouldn't it be cool if we had five comedians in one Law & Order episode," he said.
How did this episode differ from your past L&Os? "I play a guy who is somehow associated with possibly being a participant in a reality show," he said. "Considering that one of those (previous) times, I played a pedophile clown, and one time I played a plumber with an incredibly Greek name. And then the other ones I play a character where I was just the dim-witted guy...for New York actors, it's just so exciting to do that show, because it's been a staple for so long. It's also fun to do."
"When you're guest-starring on Law & Order, you get to play someone who, very close to you someone has just died, and then they say, 'Do that scene.' Or you've been accused of murdering someone. 'Do that.'" You'll have to tune in Oct. 16 to see if Gaffigan did either of those things.
Some stand-up comedy specials try to overwhelm you with flashing spotlights, raucous applause and laughter in cutaway crowd shots, and rapid-fire editing. OR, you could go ahead and showcase some unique comedians and let the material and stage presence speak for itself. In The Awkward Kings of Comedy, director/executive producer Victor Varnado puts the camera directly on his performers -- Baron Vaughn, Eric Andre, Hannibal Buress, host Marina Franklin, and himself -- and gives them the 15-minute showcase sets they deserve to share with the world. Certainly, there are hip-hop beats (provided by King Supernuts the Second), animated sequences for each performer, as well as an opening animation with voiceover narration that suggests two warring African tribes stumbled upon the first "Yo Momma" jokes.
This film isn't about the leaders of the pack, as this intro itself reveals, but rather, about the awkward kid in the glasses standing near the leader, who someday would become "funny...and a little bit weird."
The title also, of course, references back to Spike Lee's 2000 stand-up concert documentary, The Original Kings of Comedy. Varnado's film is an "alternative" nerd response to this, demonstrating that black comedians do not have to do stereotypical black comedy. Whatever that means. During one conversational interlude in the documentary, the comedians discuss the differences between a "predominantly black" crowd and a "predominantly urban" one, and you'll see by watching these performances that they would kill just fine in the former room, but they'd have to work hard for their laughs in the latter. Franklin even acknowledges the difficulties once trying to win over the audience at Showtime's At the Apollo.
Here, though, over the course of two shows taped at 45 Bleecker, the comedians can be themselves and allow an audience to see a "super articulate" man who likes to sing (Vaughn), a multicultural tornado of a comedian (Andre), a laidback guy with punchlines that will floor you (Buress), a black albino with the superpower to make you laugh (Varnado) and a woman who was both the blackest girl in a white neighborhood and the whitest girl in a black neighborhood (Franklin). It's all quite enjoyable, and the kind of special that Comedy Central, HBO and anyone else looking to showcase stand-up comedy should be broadcasting and producing more often.
The Awkward Kings of Comedy has its world premiere screening May 30 at the 92Y Tribeca in NYC, with a post-screening Q&A with Varnado.
You can now enjoy watching the trailer for the documentary film, The Awkward Kings of Comedy, featuring Victor Varnado, Eric Andre, Baron Vaughn, Hannibal Buress and Marina Franklin. "Comedy plus blackness, to the nerd power." You're welcome.
UPDATED: Now with the actual trailer embedded after the jump.
An eagle eye tells me that you can see comedian Baron Vaughn as Black Dynamite's brother in the upcoming feature film, Black Dynamite, which premieres at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. Watch the R-rated "red band" trailer for Black Dynamite here. I believe Baron is "a mean dude" in this retro-Blaxploitation flick. The cast also features Arsenio Hall as Tasty Freeze, Nicole Sullivan as Patricia Nixon, Tommy Davidson as Cream Corn, and Phil Hughes as as Saheed. Further fun fact: This also is Ars Nova's first feature film as a production company.
From the official trailer on YouTube: "This is the story of 1970s African-American action legend BLACK DYNAMITE. The Man killed his brother, pumped heroin into local orphanages, and flooded the ghetto with adulterated malt liquor. Black Dynamite was the one hero willing to fight him all the way from the blood-soaked city streets to the hallowed halls of the Honky House."
Here were your final results from the 2008 Boston Comedy Festival contest, decided last weekend...
1. Dwight Slade ($5,000); 2. Andrew Norelli ($2,500); 3. Myq Kaplan ($1,000); 4. Dave Waite ($300); 5. Baron Vaughn ($300); 6. Joe List ($300); 7. Rob O'Reilly ($300); 8. Mario DiGiorgio ($300)
How did this happen? Well, let's examine the particulars. The Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston didn't have its usual packed audience -- my memory tells me that festival organizer Jim McCue (who hosted the finals) had a sure-fire headliner in past years with Lewis Black (whom McCue sometimes opens for on tour) to fill the seats, and without that (The Smothers Brothers were the biggest name on Saturday night), the venue didn't even open the balcony. So you've got comedians used to smaller, more intimate club stages moving up to a big theater stage, except they're playing to a half-house (essentially). So you're playing to the orchestra level and a mezzanine. How do you translate your jokes to a mezzanine? There's that to consider. Also, they put the judges in the Muppet seats (as judge/honoree Steve Sweeney remarked) above the stage and near the speakers, where the acoustics were, well, terrible.
As for the performances themselves, I'm not surprised in the slightest at the top three -- Slade, Norelli and Kaplan performed at a higher level than the other five finalists. Those three could have finished in any order and not surprised me. That's how close they were. In the end, however, Slade owned the stage in a way the others didn't, and that most likely gave him an edge on the judges' scorecards.
Lessons learned from last night at the 2008 Boston Comedy Festival: Sometimes a comic plays very well to the back of the room, but not so much to the judges table in the second row; and sometimes, a show is so stacked with talent that it's difficult to pick just two comedians to advance to the finals. It was that kind of night. But you want to know who advanced and why.
Semi #3 winners, advancing to Saturday's Finals at the Cutler Majestic Theatre and a share of $10,000 in prize money: Rob O'Reilly and Mario DiGiorgio!
Wow. Just. Wow. Another comedian turned to me during DiGiorgio's performance and said "a set like this will win the contest." Which sounds like a good omen for him on Saturday. What the comic meant, I believe, is that DiGiorgio structured his set in such a way as to have broad mass appeal, with well-thought out material and a heavily layered closing routine that would earn points from the judges -- and for those of you who haven't been at the contest finals in a while -- those judges often include veteran old-time acts, such as Bill Dana, Norm Crosby, Shelly Berman, and this year, most likely the Smothers Brothers. You might be the cat's meow to all the cool kids these days, but your sense of humor might fly right past some judges. Anyhow. Where was I? Right. You may hear DiGiorgio's lengthy discussion of "the s-word" again on Saturday, so why would I ruin it? He also had a very clever idea about why Star Wars fan geeks might be virgins. O'Reilly went up after both Jessi Campbell and Andy Peters had raised their volume and the audience's to about 11.5, and immediately changed gears, saying: "OK, let's calm it down a bit." With his added time (sets expanded from 5 minutes in the prelim round to 8 minutes in the semis), O'Reilly joked about waking up drunk in Colonial Williamsburg and acting out the story of an early gig following a rowdy guy in an "urban" club. Campbell and Peters had gotten plenty of laughs from the back of the room, and Campbell, in particular, had gotten two separate applause breaks. One comic not in competition whispered, "First woman in the finals...nice." But it was not to be. Some of the judges thought Campbell and Peters were a bit too loud and/or in-your-face and/or inconsistent and/or overcompensating and/or something else they didn't tell me.
Which left only two more spots for the finals...
Not all contest preliminary groups in the Boston Comedy Festival are created alike. That's the first thing that has to be said for prelims 3-4 last night. In the late show, you could make a case for at least eight of the 12 comedians to make it through to the semis, but there only were slots for four. As for the early show, well, that was a tougher show to grade, because quite a few comedians were off. Andrew Norelli, going up seventh in the order, used this as his opening remark to the audience at the Hard Rock Cafe: "I know we're making it look like it's not fun, but it's fun!" Also, each of the first four prelims has proved problematic for comedians attempting to deal with the wireless microphone -- grabbing it from the stand, at least one comic per group manages to turn the mic off, and thereby momentarily derailing their sets. Tech proficiency can be just as important in delivering and connecting with the audience. Please make a note of it. Thanks. With that, let's get to who advanced and why...
Norelli acknowledged the early roughgoing and proceeded to get the audience on his side by talking about steroids in baseball, and how other drugs might make it better. A routine on massages went from happy endings (predictable) to massage talkers and the inanity of the phrase, "Push the stress out your arms." He also has a good retort to porn stars who claim they don't know who he is as a comic, as well as people who claim they're broke but still have plenty of money.
Dustin opened with a passing remark to the stage: "Nice ramp. I would've brought my wheelchair if I had known." Tonight's show had plenty of comics noting their surroundings, by the way. But no one else in the contest had to deal with waitresses dropping the checks during their contest set. Dustin still managed to get their attention by talking about vibrators -- "OK, the lonely girl has spoken!" Dustin noted in reference to one shouty audience member -- and jokes about sex and work and things you don't want to hear in bed. I'd heard it all before. It still worked.
Hunter could have had a terrible set by opening rather loud on the mic, but once he focused his routine on one lengthy bit about the many enticements and redeeming qualities he offers the ladies -- namely, everything they tend to like and act like -- got his vocal delivery in a more appealing rhythm that worked. "I'll be by that instrument after the show," he said, in case you wanted to take him up on that offer. Good luck.
O'Reilly also overcame a mistaken gametime decision. For reasons only he can explain, he decided to stop his routine in the middle to engage in crowd work with retired women in the front table. Crowd work that didn't go anywhere. And this was in the middle of O'Reilly joking about sex. His jokes about being a bastard do provide him with a solid line, however, that he can use for callbacks and laughs.
Others in this group deserving mentions of one sort or another: Jono Zalay wore an American flag sweater but didn't explain it, instead delivering a routine about feeding cocaine to rats and monkeys (it's for his studies). Dustin Chafin was rough around the edges, which works better in NYC where he lives now than in the Hard Rock in Boston (especially with the retired ladies up front), and went with midgets, redneck jokes, Bush is dumb, and a good line about how Obama can look more patriotic (hint: Apollo Creed). "Yay!" may not be the most effective catchphrase to utter every 15 seconds. "Big" Alvin David and Kendra Cunningham both had a fun presence, and plenty of crowd support, but couldn't translate that into winning sets. Shawn Donovan picked his doctor just for the name and comedy premise alone, but needed to sell it better. I can see why Myq Kaplan liked Donovan's style (Donovan even borrowed Kaplan's phrase and inflection to deliver one punchline?!).
OK. Moving on...
The Daily Show is not the only faux news team in the Twin Cities this week for the 2008 Republican National Convention. Lizz Winstead brought her Shoot the Messenger crew from New York City to Minnesota, where they're in the middle of a three-night run at the Parkway Theater in Minneapolis (final show tonight at 7 p.m.). The StarTribune talked to Winstead about the field trip -- we learn her brother is the Republican mayor of nearby Bloomington -- and here, we can see an excerpt from their first night's show on Tuesday, which, for those of you who need reminding, is built around "Wake Up World with Hope and Davis," the nation's only six-hour morning program hosted by Hope Jean Paul (Winstead) and Davis Miles (Baron Vaughn):
The Original Kings of Comedy tour and Spike Lee documentary film helped spur a new wave of business for stand-up comedy and comedy films, including "Blue Collar," Latin and female versions, as well as the Comedians of Comedy. But what about the black nerd alternative comics? Yeah. What about...wait. What? That's the basis for the upcoming Awkward Kings of Comedy special, conceived by comedian/actor/don't-forget-black-albino Victor Varnado, and including Baron Vaughn, Eric Andre and Hannibal Buress.
As the film's site says: "These are nerds who don't need any revenge, just a mic and an audience who cares about smart comedy from a personal perspective. All together, the Awkward Kings will show the world doofy jokesters are to be laughed at on their own terms." In addition to live performance footage -- to be shot Sept. 23 at the Bleecker Street Theater (45 Bleecker St., New York, NY) -- there will be offstage profiles and interviews with each of the comics, conducted by stand-up Marina Franklin. Tickets to the Sept. 23 show are free, but you have to make a reservation in advance by calling 800-521-4205 or emailing email@example.com, and letting them know how many tickets (limit: 4) and for which show (6 p.m. or 8:30 p.m.) along with a number and email where you can be reached.
Why would anyone mourn a venue that's essentially a dive bar with inconsistent air conditioning, horribly horrible bathrooms, a movie screen that had a massive tear in it (until, ha-ha, this past week!) for a place that still had a sign outside boasting it was Cinema Classics, and really, all of the fun that the East Village had to offer? Then again, the independently-produced comedy community of New York City has been through this before, whether it was last year at Mo Pitkins or years ago with Luna Lounge. So there we were, after an abrupt email sent out in the wee hours yesterday morning, trying to figure out if it really would be the final hours for comedy at Rififi. Spoiler alert: It was.
While rumors flew about what made July 30 the last night for Rififi (a month-to-month lease that finally found someone willing to pay the increasingly high East Village rents seemed to be the leading speculation), the indie comedy scene hastily recast the weekly Gelmania show originally scheduled for this Wednesday night. The hosts from Thursday's Totally J/K (Joe and Noah) and Friday's Greg Johnson and Larry Murphy Show certainly would be there. So, too, would many others come to pay final respects. The Whitest Kids U Know, Andy Blitz and Todd Barry showed up as spectators. The final bill would see Joe Mande and Noah Garfinkel take over first-half hosting duties, with one final "List of Nothing" and a joke Mande had uttered earlier in the day via Facebook, that the current Rififi owner would be fleeing on Thursday and taking all of the Glade air-fresheners with him to "Molester Town." Gabe and Jenny (Gabe Liedman and Jenny Slate) returned to host the second half. The final schedule will show that Adam Newman, Pete Holmes, "John McCain," Baron Vaughn, John Gemberling, Slightly Known People, Hannibal Buress, Tom McCaffrey, Chelsea Peretti, Greg Johnson and Larry Murphy, Jon Glaser, John Mulaney, Leo Allen and Eugene Mirman took part in this last Rififi effort. There was a one-woman lip-synch effort to Les Miz with Pez, or is that called Pez Miz? Mirman shouted out requests to Glaser to "do some oldies!" Mulaney even used the opportunity to try new jokes! The show began auspiciously late (?) at 9:11 p.m. and lasted past midnight, with Mirman taking the stage at 12:01 a.m., getting all rock 'n' roll by play-real trashing the stage, and Leo Allen rejoining him onstage for some last-minute banter that was odd and appropriately poignant for the occasion.
Among the quips I quoted...
"Rough week, first Bennigan's, now Rififi!" -- Pete Holmes
"I like how the owner never learned our names," Jenny Slate said. "And we had a show here for two years," Gabe Liedman replied. "Well," Slate said, "He only knew me by who I was sleeping with."
"So, Rififi's closing...ninth time's the charm, right?" -- Tom McCaffrey
"I only saw the last episode of Seinfeld, if that makes you feel any better." -- Chelsea Peretti
"I could stand up here and tell jokes that I've told 5,000 times on this stage, and I think I might." -- Greg Johnson
"Greg Johnson and I tried to save Rififi once." -- John Mulaney, adding that they discovered at a city meeting that, at that time, Rififi didn't even have a license to host live events such as comedy. Rut-ro!
"I like Rififi because you could do things that you thought were funny, but most audiences would disagree vehemently with you." -- Leo Allen
"When you leave, take a door with you!" Eugene Mirman said, then made some banging noises on the ceiling. "Oh, wait. The neighbors will complain...to the next landlord."
I have video of the final 13 minutes of the show, after the jump. You may think it a bit anti-climactic, but remember, comedians and fans didn't really have much of a chance to plan this out, even though we all knew this night would be coming sooner or later. Perhaps all of those false closing rumors of Rififi made some believe the dive would never change hands. This night proved us wrong. So now where does this scene hang out and perform now? Suggestions and thoughts encouraged in the comments. Don't be shy.
Baron Vaughn discusses the peculiarities of the "10-second rule," or however many seconds it may be in the town where you grew up. More tonight on Comedy Central's Live at Gotham (10 p.m. Eastern/Pacific).
Updated, with another clip in which Vaughn talks about the Web site for the Klan. Yes, that Klan.
Word has it that BET is working on a documentary special for this summer on black comedy. A crew interviewed the members of the Brooklyn Comedy Company (Baron Vaughn, Elon James White, Jordan Carlos and Michelle Buteau) last month and will be recording footage Saturday night at a special edition of their "Shades of Black" show, which also features a set from Chicago's Hannibal Buress (not pictured!). Tickets are free. But space at The Tank theater in Tribeca is not exactly large. Further info in my upcoming NYC shows calendar. White said he and his comedian cohorts talked about the concept of "black alt" comedy. BET reportedly interviewed Bill Cosby earlier, as well as Cedric the Entertainer and Dick Gregory. "I'm happy they approached us about it," White told me. Go to the taping Saturday night and learn more!