A quick look at comedy and comedians making news in the past day:
When Kevin James went to bed last night, he knew his reign as king of the box office had ended, with Taken dislodging Paul Blart: Mall Cop from the top of the charts. But the King of Queens star still took a victory lap on his character's signature Segway on Super Bowl Sunday, enjoying the ride as he talked up the movie during NBC's pregame coverage and saw the studio roll out new ads touting Blart as America's first blockbuster of 2009. Ah, Hollywood hyperbole. In two weeks and three weekends, the movie so far has grossed north of $83 million.
There are many things funnier than Paul Blart: Mall Cop, but perhaps none funnier than watching critics, journalists and bloggers fall all over themselves trying to make sense of the film's popularity. The Los Angeles Times said the movie "was underestimated"...by whom? EW's PopWatch blog asked if James was ready for meatier roles, so to speak. New York's Vulture blog, meanwhile, tried to coin "Blart" as an adjective for an entire genre of film. And the AP tried dissecting the film's appeal. As if it were all a big secret. Spoiler alert! It's not a secret. Though the film is kind of a mess, particularly the first half, once the action sequences start, it's a broad slapstick take on action heroes, with James nimbly fulfilling the fantasies of all of The Biggest Losers in America. Simply put, perhaps James should have switched TV titles with his longtime comedy buddy Ray Romano because Everybody Loves Kevin. And Kevin James loves his fellow comedians, and especially his brother.
For more than 200 episodes of King of Queens on CBS (and continuing in syndication), James shared his stage with comedians who dropped by for short stints and for long-running characters, most notably Jerry Stiller and Patton Oswalt, but also Nicole Sullivan, Jimmy Shubert, Eddie Pepitone, Adam Ferrara, Jackie Flynn and James's brother, Gary Valentine. Ferrara, Flynn and Valentine also got parts in Blart. And Valentine previously scored a role supporting James in I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry.
Brotherly love in show business is a rare breed in the world of stand-up comedy. Certainly, there have been plenty of brothers in comedy (Marx, Smothers, Murray, Wayans, Farley, Sklar), but they either stuck together as acts or worked separately in TV and film projects. Eddie Murphy's brother, Charlie Murphy, dove into stand-up comedy only once Eddie had left the stage. Chris Rock and brother Tony Rock both tour comedy clubs and theaters, but they appear to work on their projects individually. Gallagher famously got into a family fight and lawsuit with his brother after he toured as Gallagher Too. Rising comedian Mike Birbiglia's brother assists him in writing and shaping his material. Perhaps the only example I can think of, though, wherein two brothers in stand-up comedy actively helped each other's career on the road is Brian Regan and his brother Dennis. The two Regans toured clubs together for years, with Dennis opening for his more famous brother, Brian. More recently, Dennis Regan also had worked as a writer and story editor for...King of Queens.
Patton Oswalt recently wrote that anyone looking to become a comedian should simply watch Brian Regan: The Epitome of Hyperbole and try doing what Regan does. "You won't even come close, but your attempt to come close to the pure brilliance that is Brian Regan will, by default, make you a better comedian than you are, or could have been," Oswalt wrote on his MySpace blog earlier this month. "I should know. It's worked for me."
What is it about Brian Regan that sets him apart?
Regan doesn't seek out controversial topics, joking about reading, art, jury duty, TV cooking shows and the like. Nor does he litter his performance with profanity. Rather, he jokes about everyday subjects with an Everyman quality, hunching his body and bobbing his head while darting across the stage (though not as physical now as he was years ago), oftentimes adopting a quintessentially dumb guy approach to observational humor. He jokes about not reading newspaper stories that continue past the front page. He jokes about knowing nothing about art. And whatever he's joking about, he makes it easily relatable to audiences. As his manager, Rory Rosegarten, says on the DVD, "The audiences embrace him tremendously." While other comedians go into acting in TV and movies, or writing gigs, Regan has continued to pummel premises and tour the country as a stand-up for the past two decades, the past five years or so selling out theaters. Here's a bonus clip from Regan explaining his methodology:
Regan also has proven an ability to turn over new material, producing three different hourlong specials in the past four years. If there's anything to quibble about on the new DVD, it's that you want more. His set clocks in just under 41 minutes, with a three-minute encore in which Regan obliges audience requests for his bits on Dora the Explorer and walkie-talkies. There's also a 13-minute "making of" feature that shows you what goes into, well, producing the show. In the end, of course, Oswalt is right. If you want to become a stand-up comedian, you'd do well to sit yourself down and watch Brian Regan first. Because Regan already is doing whatever it is you think you're going to do. And he's doing it quite successfully.
Brian Regan taped his 20th appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman on Monday afternoon, and it'll air tonight, with Regan hilariously describing how he fakes his massive amount of expertise about art. His appearance helps promote his upcoming hour special on Comedy Central, "The Epitome of Hyperbole," that debuts 10 p.m. Sept. 6 (and available as a DVD with extra footage on Sept. 9). I chatted with Regan after his Letterman taping in the green room, and despite my amazingly artistic camera angles, you'll still be able to hear Regan explain the peculiarities of performing stand-up for a TV audience, including how the cameras and applause meters all make a difference in telling jokes. Watch our chat:
Related: His theater tour continues Sept. 4 in Joliet, Ill. Buy tickets for Brian Regan here.
The New York Comedy Festival today announced it has entered a multi-year partnership deal with Comedy Central, which means Caroline Hirsch's annual celebration of big-name comedy in the Big Apple now will get a bigger TV presence. The deal includes an annual Comedy Central special, and perhaps more. So the fifth New York Comedy Festival, running Nov. 5-9, 2008, in varied venues around Manhattan, unveils this early lineup:
11/5: Frank Caliendo, Carnegie Hall
11/5: “We Have a Winner” moderated by Lizz Winstead, 92nd Street Y
11/6: Louis C.K., They’re With Me, Town Hall
11/6: Katt Williams, Live In Concert, Carnegie Hall
11/7: Carlos Mencia: At Close Range, Avery Fisher Hall
11/7: An Evening with Craig Ferguson, Town Hall
11/7: Writers Speak! A Potentially Regrettable Evening with the Writers of The Daily Show, Paley Center
11/8: Tracy Morgan: Coming Back Home, Apollo Theater
11/8: Sarah Silverman and Friends, Hammerstein Ballroom
11/8: Joel McHale Live at Town Hall, Town Hall
11/8: Late Night with Conan O’Brien Writers’ Panel Discussion, Paley Center
11/9: Brian Regan Live in Concert, Avery Fisher Hall
11/9: B.J. Novak and Friends, Town Hall
Tickets start going on sale at 11 a.m. tomorrow, Thursday, Aug. 7. They still have to release the names and special events happening during that week at Carolines. Plenty of big names, though, on the slate, including several repeat performers from last year. Louis CK rocked Town Hall last year, so already looking forward to that. We'll see how McHale and Novak handle the larger stage. Tracy Morgan plays the Apollo. Sarah Silverman moves from last year's Carnegie Hall to this year at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Carlos Mencia? The Late Night writers talk should be very interesting, coming as it does near the end of the road for some of them as the show prepares to move to California.
Comedy Central has revealed its list of upcoming works and pilots under the modest heading: "The Future of Comedy."
Next year, prepare for a fantasy-comedy set in medieval times, "Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire," written by Peter Knight.
The pilots include projects by or featuring Snoop Dogg, Andy Richter, Daniel Tosh, David Alan Grier, Nick Swardson, Paul F. Tompkins, Opie & Anthony, Zach Galifianakis and A.D. Miles. Scripted development deals go out to Bobby Lee, Jordan Rubin, Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter.
And there will be specials. John Oliver's "Terrifying Times" debuts April 20. Carlos Mencia's hourlong "Performance Enhanced" debuts May 18. Brian Regan's yet-untitled special will air in the third quarter of 2008.