Great week for Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the South Park creators who almost ran the tables at the 2011 Tony Awards for their hit musical, The Book of Mormon.
On Wednesday night, the duo appeared triumphantly on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to rejoice in stories about the Tonys, as well as some comments about their most recent episode of South Park, in which they addressed their cynicism.
But how about those Tony Awards?!
Here's a treat for you.
In this previously unseen clip from the cutting-room floor of the 1989 documentary about then up-and-coming comedian Chris Rock, the stand-up is seen at the Comic Strip Live joking about "finding God" and how different religions try to recruit new followers. Notice how Rock already has several of his mannerisms in place, among them his poise, confidence and delivery. Bonus fun fact: Judah Friedlander was behind the camera on this.
Roll the clip!
Ricky Gervais is friends with Louis CK, who is friends with Chris Rock, who is friends with Jerry Seinfeld. Put these four friends together in a room and let them talk shop for 50 minutes about comedy. That's not a show about nothing. That's Talking Funny, which premieres tonight on HBO.
It opens mid-conversation, just like Showtime's The Green Room with Paul Provenza. But unlike that series, this is a one-time affair, without a studio audience or a moderator. Just four famous funny men, well, talking funny. And talking about the business of being funny. Is that going to be funny?
Of course it is. And not just because they're all established comedians. Let's take a look at an extended peek:
Among the other observations they make about their art:
Gervais acknowledges that he got into stand-up to prove that he had earned his keep as a comedian after the success of The Office. Seinfeld alleges that stand-up comedians are the most criticized and judged people, because of the feedback they receive after every joke, and argues that professional critics shouldn't judge comedy unless they know what it is to write "the act." There's talk about cursing, easy laughs, and the clip above leads into a discussion about slurs. They get into an extended riff after Louis CK says he still remembers a singing comic who bombed 25 years ago. Seinfeld recounts an old bit of his about Superman in which he realized the bit only worked because he had used the F-word, and now he doesn't swear at all onstage.
"I sort of disguise jokes. I don't really make jokes. I think of a joke as the minimum amount of words to get to a punchline." -- Ricky Gervais
"That's the problem with so many of these young guys, they think it's all attitude. But it's got to have jokes under this weird persona, under your crazy glasses, under your crazy voice. Whatever gimmick you have. Henny Youngman has to have something to do with it," Chris Rock said. To which Seinfeld added: "You can put all kind of furniture, but you have to have steel in the walls."
Louis CK says that in recent years, he has used his strongest closer as his new opener to force him to write good jokes, prompting Seinfeld to tell Rock, "You see how this kid got good?" There's some mutual love among these guys, and in this first trailer for the screener, you can see that. Roll the clip.
At first, some viewers of this clip wondered if CK was going to call out Seinfeld for doing his bit. But in context, Seinfeld was doing CK's bit, after telling him how much he loved that bit. CK's actual response: "That's a completely Seinfeld-ed version of my joke. You made it nice."
Similarly, in this discussion on early bits, CK and Seinfeld learn that they both used to joke about the grammar and interpretation of street signs. I can think of several other comedians who have plumbed these shallow waters, too. To parallel thinking!
The special ends with them jokingly delivering promos for the 50 minutes. But you already know you should watch this. If you're a comedian. If you're an aspiring comedian. If you're a fan of comedy. If you like to laugh. This may be HBO, but it's also must-see TV.
Sure, his jokes about the New York Mets and Justin Bieber are great and all, but it's the second half, in which he talks about his Broadway debut, that's really comedy gold. Chris Rock on Letterman. Always must-see TV.
Just as Colin Quinn and Pee-wee Herman launch their own new Broadway productions, word from the street brings even more casting news for spring 2011, with parts for both Robin Williams and Chris Rock to make their Broadway acting debuts.
Williams will star as the titular tiger in Rajiv Joseph's play Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, starting March 10, 2011, with an official opening March 31 at a theater to be announced.
Rock, meanwhile, will join Bobby Cannavale, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Annabella Sciorra and Yul Vazquez in Stephen Adly Guirgis' Motherf**ker with the Hat, playing the sobriety sponsor of Cannavale's character. That play is slated for previews March 22, 2011, with an opening on April for a limited run at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.
I don't know if you can ever have too many stars on a benefit show, but Comedy Central certainly tries every two years on behalf of autism research with its Night of Too Many Stars: An Overbooked Concert for Autism Education, which airs again tonight.
Much of the event taped earlier this month in NYC, although when it airs this evening, host Jon Stewart and a slew of celebrities will appear live in LA to answer the phones when you call in to make a donation. Viewers also will be able to vote, via texting, on celebrity stunts during the live portion of the broadcast. Comedians appearing and manning the phone bank include Jason Alexander, Mike Birbiglia, Julie Bowen, Drew Carey, Cedric the Entertainer, George Clooney, Bryan Cranston, Larry David, Will Forte, Jeff Garlin, Lauren Graham, Tom Hanks, John Hodgman, Rob Huebel, Penn Jillette, Chris Kattan, Jimmy Kimmel, B.J. Novak, Conan O’Brien, Jim Parsons, Andy Richter, Maya Rudolph, Paul Scheer, Adam Scott, Bill Simmons, David Spade, Eric Stonestreet, Betty White, Larry Wilmore and Weird Al Yankovic.
As for the show itself, I saw it, so I can tell you what you may see, unless they decide to edit it out.
You may or may not see Tina Fey joke about wanting to say hi to her family, then realizing the show is airing on Thursday night, when 30 Rock is on, adding: "Who am I kidding, they're watching Shit My Dad Says on the DVR." Here she is with Stewart showing off her 2011 Tina Fey Swimsuit Calendar:
You may or may not see Ricky Gervais make the audience gasp with a DUI joke that also includes a rape! Here is joking about his history of charitable giving, including the time he was given the gift of a goat. An African goat. Roll it.
You may or may not see Tracy Morgan awkwardly work with Stewart through a sketch about how big his pockets were.
You may or may not see Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell sing a novelty song that's only about 19 months too late, including the re-appearance of Tay Zonday. If you were around 19 months ago, that name might make more sense. But probably not.
You may or may not see Jim Gaffigan kill with his new material about McDonald's.
MTV News caught up with Chris Rock and Adam Sandler on the red carpet for their current movie, Grown Ups, and asked them about their work as producers on an upcoming biopic of the late Richard Pryor. Marlon Wayans is slated to star as Pryor, and Rock defends that choice in this clip. As for when the movie will get made? That remains up in the air. Director Bill Condon, who also wrote the script for Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said?, has a full plate already this year and will be directing the fourth Twilight film, Breaking Dawn. So when will we get to see a Pryor biopic?
As part of the promotional push for the new film Grown Ups, David Spade and Chris Rock visited Howard Stern's satellite radio program. That's fairly predictable, right? As is the probability that Stern would get Spade and Rock to dish on who's got beefs with whom. This audio clip opens with a clip of Rock giving it to David Letterman earlier this year. But skip ahead to the 2:50 mark and you hear Rock explaining how he works on new stand-up material, and describes his surprise visit to the Sunday night showcase Hannibal Buress runs in Brooklyn at the Knitting Factory in Williamsburg. Rock talks about how he tests his new stuff in front of all sorts of crowds, including one full of "hip" and young people and comedians. Rock also says that he won't put any new tour dates on sale until he has spent at least six months or more making sure the new material is worth the ticket price. Well, why am I telling you what he said when you can listen to it, right now:
Based on the book "Black Comedians on Black Comedy" by Darryl Littleton, Robert Townsend's documentary Why We Laugh debuted at Sundance in 2009 and just came out on DVD this week. Before you get to the documentary, however, you see six separate trailers for stand-up comedy specials, each one touting it was the event of the year. Sure, Codeblack Entertainment is responsible for them as well as this documentary, but the sales pitch leads to a misdirect when the main feature plays, and you hear the voiceover narration from Angela Bassett, footage of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and commentary from former NAACP head Kweisi Mfume and former Congressman Walter E. Fauntroy -- you know this isn't going to be a joyride.
Instead, the documentary uses cultural critics and comedians alike to tell the story of black Americans, and how they have used humor throughout the past century as a way to rise above their pain and oppression. Here's the extended trailer:
The path is traced from minstrels and blackface, to early stars such as Bert Williams and Lincoln Perry (better known as Stepin Fetchit), who made far different career choices with implications for generations to follow. You see how Nipsey Russell was a star at the Apollo long before he held a regular seat on Match Game in the 1970s, and how Amos 'n' Andy both helped and hurt the cause of black comedians. The careers of Moms Mably, Redd Foxx and Dick Gregory are examined, then the sitcoms of the 1970s (Good Times, The Jeffersons), Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor, through Eddie Murphy, Whoopi Goldberg, a too-short segment on the start of a separate black club circuit and Robin Harris, In Living Color, Def Comedy Jam, the Kings of Comedy and Dave Chappelle.
Most everyone interviewed continues to express awe and admiration for what Pryor accomplished. Princeton professor/author Dr. Cornel West called Pryor "the freest black man America's ever had. He is not just a genius, he exercises parrhesia. He exercises the most plain, frank, honest, unintimidated speech we had in the 60s, even more than Martin and Malcolm!" That's followed up by Townsend himself, who adds: "He gave to the world a gift, you know, like none other, that opened the playing field. And the only thing that I hate now is that, a lot of comedians, the only thing they took from Richard was the cursing. They didn't take his social commentary."
An old NYU student film by Michael Dennis, Who's Chris Rock?, surfaced on YouTube over the weekend and is making the rounds (WFMU, Comedy.com). Shot in the spring of 1989, with videographer Judah Friedlander no less, the short documentary jumps back and forth between footage of Chris Rock, then 23, onstage at the Comic Strip Live, then at home with his mom deconstructing some of the jokes.
After the credits, we're treated to a few more minutes, including Rock telling the story of how meeting Eddie Murphy at the club earned him his biggest break, and then hearing the Rock family matriarch talk about how an even younger Chris held court on the stoop. When he corrects her about which club he performed at first, she says it doesn't matter. That's the mom's view. As a comedian, we know it matters which club first let us onstage. Oh, and also, at the very very end, Chris Rock predicts his future. How close do you think he came? Place your bets. You just want to clear 12 minutes from your schedule and watch this!
Some comedians are more than eager to work their well-honed routines into interviews when they go on late-night TV. Chris Rock is a piece of work, though, because he hits the clubs for a solid couple of weeks before he hits the promotional circuit to write and develop new material for his appearances. Such has been the case these past few nights as Rock went on Late Show with David Letterman -- sticking it to Letterman repeatedly about his adultery problem, and also Tiger Woods -- then Real Time with Bill Maher, and last night Lopez Tonight.
The conversations always go back to the project Rock is promoting, in this case the movie Death at a Funeral. But I found it interesting that both Maher and George Lopez preferred to talk comedy shop with Rock first. And in last night's case, Lopez also had Rock judge three "audience members" try to impersonate Rock's bits in an ad-hoc game of "Chris Rock Band." When I heard one of the audience members say his name was Sadiki, my radar ears twitched. Today my friends at SF Stand-Up confirmed that the audience members actually were three San Francisco Bay Area comedians: Julian Vance, Keith Jensen & Sadiki Fuller.
Here's their efforts, complete with leather jackets. Lopez: "Have you ever thought of doing stand-up?" Jensen: "Yeah. All the time."
And here is Rock talking shop and then some with Lopez and Maher. In the Maher segment, there's more talk after this clip about Rock's stint on SNL -- he said he's more than OK with having been in the shadows of the other SNL players, not just because he was on a great cast, but also because his career turned out more than OK. He also said he feels closer to David Spade and Adam Sandler than most other comedians, because they went through it together, and Maher talked about how comedians often have a class of people they feel a kinship with because they came up at the same time. If/when I find that part, I'll add it here. Until then, roll it!
Someone used their hot tub time machine over the weekend to bring this TV highlight out of hiding. Five years ago, Chris Rock warned Conan O'Brien that if he made Jay Leno angry, Leno would stick around for another 20 years on The Tonight Show. Comedians knew what was coming. Just like Artie Lange predicted in 2008 and Norm MacDonald predicted in 2009. Roll the clip!
Here's a snapshot my friend in comedy Brody Stevens took last night at The Comedy Store in West Hollywood, after he got bumped so Chris Rock could test out some new jokes on an unsuspecting audience. And a small crowd at that. As Stevens wrote to accompany his Twitpic: "Chris on stage, less than 10 people in crowd, working out fresh material. Just like me!"
Just like us.
Quite a difference from when Chris Rock performed to an estimated 65,000 people in Bonnaroo.
Haven't done the math on this, but when I saw that Chris Rock, Eddie Izzard and Emo Philips all celebrate Feb. 7 as their birthday -- though not the same year (Rock turns 45, Izzard 48 and Philips 54 today) -- I wondered what day has witnessed the birth of more famously funny people.* You know what, though? Right now I don't feel like doing the math on this. Just wishing these guys a happy birthday will do!
*If you feel like running through the calendar and seeing how many funny comedians were born on each of the 365 1/4 days of the year and getting back to me, that'd be cool, too.
-- Chris Rock, during a surprise 40-minute guest set Tuesday night at the Comedy Cellar, as the stand-up comedian worked out new material and expanded upon older jokes. Rock will appear Thursday on NBC's The Jay Leno Show. Rock won an Emmy earlier this month for writing his most recent HBO special, Kill The Messenger.
February is wrapping up with some interesting and curious comedy items to relay from around the Internets. To wit:
-- Dave Chappelle performed a four-hour set earlier this morning (as in late last night) at the Comic Strip Live in New York City, and comedian/employee Adam Cozens took advantage of being bumped to take some photomographs. Cozens said only 17 of the 60 audience members managed to stay for the full show. But could they, or Chappelle, do 50 hours at the Strip? (Earlier: The world record 50-hour marathon show at the Strip)
-- Coincidentally, at the same time Chappelle was doing a surprise set at the Strip, Chris Rock stopped in for an unannounced set at the Comedy Cellar in the Village. Less coincidental, perhaps, the model who has been engaged in a decade-long lawsuit against Rock had her files unsealed (Los Angeles Times).
-- Comedy Central Insider has compiled a list of 100 funny Twitter feeds to follow. I am on it. Follow me @thecomicscomic.
-- Among the new Twitter members this week: Dane Cook and Louis CK. A clip of Louis CK on Conan from October apparently has gotten some renewed mileage on YouTube this week. Why? Because it's funny. That's why. Louis CK also reported via Twitter that he has postponed taping his new DVD (was planned for March 14 in Boston -- show will go on, but without big cameras). Dane Cook, meanwhile, ranked among the biggest concerts in the world among all acts (music, comedy, whatnots) in January, selling out the 19,092-seat St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Fla., on Jan. 31. That show grossed $1.2 million with a top ticket price of $102.75 (before service charges?). So if you thought the Dane Train was slowing down, think again.
-- Boston comedy correspondent Nick A. Zaino has a new interview with The Whitest Kids U Know, which is good and timely, because the group began as a live sketch show, has moved to TV and IFC, and is currently on a nationwide comedy club tour performing live again (and also a feature film starring two of them!).
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.
This year's Sundance Film Festival is wrapping up, but the Sundance Channel got Chris Rock to sit down with his cohorts, Sarah Jones and Nelson George, to talk about their documentary, Good Hair. The doc started out with a much simpler concept, but ended up weaving a much larger tale about the culture behind African-American hairstyles, sending Rock all the way to India. Here, let him explain it:
Related: The festival awarded a special jury prize to comedian Jeff Stilson for directing this documentary. Congrats!
The DVD, or rather, DVDs for Chris Rock's 2008 HBO special, Kill the Messenger, became available on Tuesday. You can experience the special as it aired, or get the full package, as it were, with a three-disc collection that includes all three performances separately from Johannesburg, London and New York City, plus extra goodies. In this clip, Rock explains what he was going for, something original and global, and how U2 provided inspiration in Rattle & Hum.