Amended! When I wrote earlier today about HBO's plans to film a one-off special called Talking Funny with Louis CK, Ricky Gervais, Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld, and mentioned Showtime's The Green Room with Paul Provenza, I should also have mentioned a third televised possibility.
That's because Greg Behrendt's pilot, There Might Be Cake, is still in the discussion stages over at IFC. Not yet passed. Not yet ordered.
Behrendt filmed the pilot in February, including live stand-up with Nick Thune, Tig Notaro, Dana Gould and Kurt Braunohler, and an interview with David Cross. Behrendt described his show back then, thisaway: "It's a docu-series of me interviewing my peers about their careers, the new kids they love or fear, and the comics they believe deserved more attention, For the pilot I interviewed my old buddy and former lover David Cross."
So stay tuned.
Why would they do that? Because before my chat with Cook began in a restaurant, Cook asked the waiter to bring him a "chicken situation." A chicken situation? That sounded all-too-familiar to Behrendt, because, well, that's a bit he tells on his 2005 CD and DVD, "Greg Behrendt is Uncool." Roll the clip! Oh, wait. Embedding not allowed.
Click to view: Greg Behrendt, "Chicken Situation."
Hmmm. So. There's that. When Cook and I sat down to talk, it seemed to me that Cook's interaction with the waiter was merely one of those things Hollywood types do when they're rich and famous and feel like they should be able to have whatever they want, no matter what's actually on a menu. I didn't think he was trying to steal Behrendt's bit. Borrow it, maybe? Because I don't think he expected me to include it in my profile. For Behrendt, of course, it's not only personal but also professional. Because "chicken situation" is his thing.
Yes, dear readers and lovers of laughter, tis the season to be Halloweening...so, what. You want to see something funny that's in costume or something?
Comedy.com has determined these are the 13 funniest Halloween videos on the Web. And three of them feature stand-up comedians: Patton Oswalt, Greg Behrendt and Larry David.
Or why don't you just visit Funny or Die today and check out the home page's "editorial picks." If you're visiting after Halloween, you'll have to take that extra step of typing "Halloween" into the search field. I know, I know. So much work for your typing fingers.
But if you're looking for a comedian talking about what it's like to be an adult on Halloween, well, the first bit that sprung to my mind was Lewis Black. Candy corn? This YouTube clip, which is all audio, btw, will refresh your memories...(and since it's Lewis Black, I must remind you that his language probably is not safe for work)
Labor Day weekend in Seattle means the biggest music and arts fest of the year there, aka Bumbershoot. A decade ago, the weekend attracted names both big and small in music to come together in celebration of culture and all things good and fun, with one show or maybe two devoted on the side to comedy. Well, one look at the 2008 Bumbershoot comedy schedule shows how far we've come, with three full days and nights of funny in multiple venues this weekend. Human Giant will be there. So, too, will Janeane Garofalo, Marc Maron, Tom Rhodes, Doug Benson, Hannibal Buress, Jessi Klein, TJ Miller, Nick Thune, Michelle Buteau, the People's Republic of Komedy, Vince Averill, Tig Notaro, Greg Behrendt, The Sound of Young America Live!, UCB-LA's MySpace show, and many more.
It's also a time for sad and glad news. Sad? Final weekend for the Mainstage Comedy crew on Queen Anne (as reported by the Seattle Comedy Blog). Waiting for the full story on that development. On the other hand: Glad?
The Comedy Underground finally gets to reopen in its new location a couple of blocks over in Pioneer Square at 109 S. Washington St., with a grand reopening debut UPDATED: The Comedy Underground's people report they're moving the Sept. 9 for the Mitch Hedberg CD release/tribute show over to Laughs in Kirkland because it's possible the new Underground won't be ready in time and they don't want to miss the chance to celebrate the CD release in "Mitch's comedy home."
It's time for one last look around the 2008 Montreal Just For Laughs festival, which Variety reports raked in $10 million (which is about the same in Canadian as it is in U.S. dollars these days!) this July. Which means this final recap must begin with the guy who buzzed about the festival...
Doug Stanhope, who set up his Slamdance to their Sundance, aka Just For Spite festival with shows Friday and Saturday at Club Chaos, told me on Saturday night that he'd been offered a paltry $1,100 to perform 10 nights of one-man shows at the fest (or as he added, less than what he earned during his first trip to Montreal's JFL), which prompted his fury. Much of the buzz about Stanhope during the fest itself centered around two incidents, both of which Stanhope wrote about online. He first aired his grievances on Wednesday via 236.com, then on Friday night, after getting kicked out of a JFL venue by fest organizer Bruce Hills, Stanhope went to his MySpace to fill us in on the details.
Most pleasant surprise in a one-man show: Patrice Oneal. Here's a guy who seems so in your face and so not safe for work that, well, that's how his career even began in Boston, challenging another comedian. And he has made his name on the club circuit as that guy who won't take no gruff. But you take him out of the comedy clubs and put him in an intimate theater setting, give him a stool or a chair and just let him speak...wow. As I noted earlier, his one-man show, Positivity, is positively brilliant. He may think he's not getting any smarter. But this show is the smartest thing he has done.
The lucky New Faces bump? Last year, Tom Papa hosted all of the New Faces showcases and handled himself with such professionalism and managed to bring the funny, that I recall singling him out and hoping he'd get a show of his own. This year, Papa got the special one-man showcase named after the late Richard Jeni and earned nightly standing ovations for his show, Only Human. Here's the Montreal Gazette review to chew on. I saw similar magic coming from Greg Giraldo this year in hosting New Faces, and hope he gets a similar promotion in 2009. Giraldo always has mastered the art of topical social commentary, but there also has been so much going on in his world, both professionally and personally, that could be mined for a one-man show. Let's make that happen.
Funniest comic-on-comic impersonation: Greg Behrendt, who introduced himself to the audience as "a 45-year-old alternative comic," doing Russell Brand at the midnight Alternative showcase, slinking his way around the stage and joking about Brand having sex with Kate Moss.
Toughest ticket for a show I wished I'd seen: They say you mock the ones you love (some do), so Behrendt must have been paying tribute to Russell Brand's status as the hot comic of the moment. You had to sweet talk your way into his sold-out performances. Thankfully, I got to see Brand a couple of days later in New York City (my review of Russell Brand).
Toughest ticket for a show I'm not sorry I missed: Apatow For Destruction. Movie producers and movie stars should not always be confused for great stand-up comedians.
How young is he, again? Bo Burnham, at 17, is the new sensation, already signed to Gersh with a Comedy Central EP that zoomed up the iTunes charts. Where did he come from? Outside of Boston, since you asked. He generated some "heat" as they say in the bidness. I saw him the previous weekend open up for Joel McHale at Carolines and deliver an amazingly proficient and efficient 13-minute musical set of songs and rap. How did this tall, scrawny high-school kid making YouTube videos gain so much poise onstage with less than 20 live performances to his credit? He told me. "I'm young, dumb and fearless." Here's a recent fairly NSFW video from Bo fo yo (argh, I just really typed that and didn't backspace backspace delete, didn't I?):
State of the Industry vs. Comedy Person of the Year: Andy Kindler wins in a walk-off, as Kindler filled the room to more than capacity, with people standing in the foyer, then half of them walking out to skip the festival's awarding of "Comedy Person of the Year" to Judd Apatow. Having Apatow did guarantee that all his famous friends and industry associates would show up in Montreal, though, leading to some heartfelt words from Apatow himself, and a funny quip from Seth Rogen: "Look at us. We're a parade of bad fashion...It's like we're at the rehearsal for the award."
Just Comedy? Remember the days when you didn't have to pay $500 to attend a festival thrown on your behalf? Oh, those were days. But Just Comedy's two-day confab proved to be kind of eh. As I joked to Andy Kindler in our short video interview, I only stayed at the Webisode to Episode panel for about five minutes, because that's as long as that panel should have been. Don't they know this already? Because of that, I missed out on perhaps the liveliest panel of the confab, as club owners kvetched at length about the business of live touring.
All-around favorites: You couldn't go anywhere in Montreal without someone reminding you how great John Mulaney and Brent Weinbach were at the festival. I shall sing Mulaney's praises to anyone who asks, and it was great to see him knock it out of the park (that's a baseball term) at JFL, with people especially rapt over his tale of playing a joke on a restaurant at age 11. Mind you, he's only 25 now. He will tape a Comedy Central Presents next month and you will enjoy it. He's also co-headlining at Comix next month (Aug. 22-23) with Nick Kroll. As for Weinbach, he won the Andy Kaufman Award in Vegas last year for a reason, and showed why in Montreal with an over-the-top performance at the alternative showcases.
New Faces recaps: My favorites or yours? Brendon Walsh stood out for me with his cleverness, while Sean Patton surprised me because I had never seen him in a mainstream club before. Harris Wittels delivered the ballsiest set, ending a routine that included misnamed bands and masturbation issues with a joke about racism. Ira Proctor turned it around so much from the first set to the second that veteran Larry Miller couldn't stop complimenting him. Mo Mandel was the singular standout from the other group. Although truth be told, most people I talked to from the industry were relatively underwhelmed by this year's crop of New Faces as a whole. Then again, they were relatively underwhelmed in general.
State of the New Faces Industry: What does it say about the comedy industry and Montreal's New Faces that two of them, Iliza Shlesinger and Jeff Dye, are among the finalists for this season on NBC's Last Comic Standing? A few things. Among them: The NBC producers prefer fresh-faced comedians, even if they're relatively inexperienced, because it allows them to have control (read: earn money) by launching their careers nationally. Also, it means tough luck for industry wanting a piece, as NBC and the producers have them under its contractual spell already. Anyone want to guess whether Shlesinger and Dye already are locked up for the nationwide club/theater tour that follows the season finale?
The Masters: Speaking of Larry Miller, what a class act he proved to be in Montreal, not just for actually watching younger comedians and saying nice things to them, but also for being the consummate host for the Masters showcases. Miller has been one of the more amusing voices of reason on Bill Maher's HBO chat show, Real Time, and it's so nice to be able to see Miller onstage again doing stand-up. As he told audiences, "Almost everyone on the show is someone I've known for years and respect -- and they're all good." Well, I'll be the judge of that. Henry Cho, a Korean raised in Tennesee, "so I'm South Korean." If you didn't enjoy Esther Ku's jokes about getting Koreans confused for each other, what would you make of this master's trip to the homeland with his father: "When we went to Korea, he walked 20 feet away and I lost him!" Hal Sparks continues to sport his Criss Angel hair and magician look, despite how it looks. It looks like Criss Angel. Instead, Sparks ranted against people who miss his short hair, talked about losing his Kentucky accent, and did a big act-out about sexually peaking. Cathy Ladman hates her New York voice, and Montreal audiences weren't exactly thrilled with it, either. Another trip to the therapist and everything will be OK. Henry Phillips and his guitar? Well, here's a little number you may have heard before, "Sweet Little Blossom of Mine." Todd Glass: I hadn't seen him live in four years, and man, how I missed seeing his energetic self. Glass is a guy who's always on, even when he's not on he's on. What a bundle of fun! Remember when Glass was on Last Comic Standing and kept mugging for everyone at everytime...good times. At the Masters, Glass riffed on both Sparks and Phillips and then himself, and destroyed with a bit about how easy recipes are, such as corn pudding! Meantime, here's an oldie but a goodie from Glass. Thea Vidale and I sat next to each other on the "regional jet" up from New York City, and regional jet means really small plane, which means I actually should have and could have used the phrase, "C'mon and sit on Daddy's lap!" And Billy Gardell closed by focusing on how kids have changed and how we've all changed because of anti-depressants, with a presence that shows you what a veteran stand-up headliner's set is all about.
Shuttle buddies: Don't know how it worked out like this, because we didn't see other during the fest and came from different cities, but Kent from Ask A Ninja and I ended up on the same shuttles to and from the airport in Montreal. Serendipity?
But what about next year: What about 2009? As noted or hinted at previously, several industry folks grumbled openly about wondering why they'd come to Montreal again in the first place. The festival certainly didn't dispel stereotypes about the friendliness of French Canadians, as they tried every manner in the book to get industry up to Montreal -- including their annual withholding of the New Faces and Masters names until two days before most would arrive, adding this two-day Just Comedy confab and charging industry $500 to show up -- then giving industry folks multiple hassles once they made it to Montreal. And that's not to mention the outrageous prices in the Hyatt Regency ($3 for a Coca-Cola, $10 for a bottle of beer), the attitude of the Hyatt toward the industry (even though the festival encouraged them to stay in the Hyatt) and the fact that some Hyatt workers were picketing outside made for a big barrel of not-fun. Stanhope wasn't the only one to openly ask if Montreal has become more about making a profit off of comedy fans and less about being a place for discovering and launching comedy careers. So what will happen in 2009 when JFL joins up with TBS to host a comedy festival in Chicago the month before Montreal? Will the industry go to Chicago and skip Montreal entirely? It only served to make me miss the atmosphere in Aspen, a festival run by people who really wanted it to be a home for the comedy industry (even if it proved too expensive and snowy). It also makes me want to start up my own comedy festival, a true showcase to bring industry to the talents worth watching, both new and old. If anyone wants to help me make that come true, please holler my way. Thanks.
I spotted Greg Behrendt last night at a taping for John Oliver (more on that soon enough). But it reminded me that Behrendt is in New York City this weekend at Gotham. And that reminded me of a great lengthy chat I had with him two years ago. Here's a choice tidbit in which he explains the need to perform stand-up comedy:
"At lunch, they set up a mike. In front of the kids. They said, 'Don't go blue.' I opened for an air-band contest once in Fresno, and got, 'Get off!' You've got to want it if you keep having those experiences and come back for more. I think we're destined to do things. Who would pick stand-up? This might not go well in front of 200 people and they might rebel. I really think it's a calling. I think there are people who are supposed to do it. What the f--k would (Dave) Attell do? What would (Mitch) Hedberg have done? Brian Regan, same thing. They have to go in front of a room full of people and grab a mike. It's just what I have to do, until I feel like I don't, and then I'll quit."
A couple of years ago, Greg Behrendt found himself telling jokes to a few dozen people at a Baltimore comedy club. Now he's a household name. Give credit to (or blame) him for co-authoring the best-selling relationship book, "He's Just Not That Into You," which came out of his consulting work for Sex And The City and catapulted him, via Oprah, from stand-up comic to daytime TV host himself.
I spoke with him as he was making the transition.
I first saw Behrendt at Seattle's Bumbershoot several years ago (1998, maybe?) introduced as one of David Cross' friends. A few years later, I got to open for him at the Tempe Improv on a weekend that saw him also appear on The Tonight Show -- which resulted in Behrendt flying to L.A. early Friday, taping the show, flying back to Arizona for two shows, then watching the Improv's big screen drop to broadcast his Tonight Show routine. Back then, he liked to joke about people getting his name wrong all the time. Is it better now that he's got a TV show coming out? "Nah. It's still the same. People get it wrong. It's not a national brand yet," he said.
"It'll be like a punk-rock Dr. Phil," he told me. What if Dr. Phil were punk, though? "No. If he was in a punk band, he would've gone full-on Minor Threat. We would've found out years later that he smoked pot but didn't inhale."
More about his show: "My slogan is: Your life doesn't have to suck...If your job sucks, you should quit, because you're not here to do penance. I won't always have answers for people. A lot of times, I will have questions. I will run in the aisles. I will throw things. And coffee will be made. I don't know if this will pan out. I'm not sure, but I would like to have a musician as a sidekick, as a co-host. Maybe somebody like Grant Lee Phillips."
Sounds cool. Even if Behrendt's most recent CD/DVD was titled Uncool. Should Tony Danza be worried? "Tony's got a nice life," Behrendt said. "If I'm uncool, then Tony Danza must be cool. When I was on his show, he started singing showtunes with me. I was in the middle of something and he started going, 'Da-da-dadada.' I didn't know what was happening. I thought, 'Dude, could you sing 'Lamb of God'?"
"It's not like I'm on Arrested Development. I'm still of a mind that I'm not cool."
He mentions his daughter just had a birthday and how he's not feeling much like ranting. "I'm not angry at things," he said. "I love all the iTunes. iPodding. I've got the video iPod. I like to watch me an Office on the airplane. I'll watch an Oscar-nominated short film and watch it in my head. I think comedy's in a really good state right now."
How's the state of your comedy these days? "I wanted the dudes, but they went and saw (Dave) Attell. My rooms are filled with women, and I love it. They're like, 'Dude.' I'm like, I know. They're like, 'Dude.' I'm like, I know. Get yourself on Oprah. This is what your comedy career could be like," he said. "I'm actually revisiting some old things that I did when I started and couldn't get off the ground."
"I've also tried to show the flip side of (He's Just Not That Into You), where a guy gets crushed. Late-night drunk dialing. Mix tapes. They (women) just have more faith and trust in us. They have a time clock."
It's almost April Fool's Day. Do you get into that? "I don't like pranks. I don't like people pretending they're dead. I don't like people pulling pranks on me. I don't mind watching it happen to people I don't know. Oh, that (George) Clooney. He loves to pull pranks on set. I don't want to sit on the toilet and sh-t on cellophane. No. It's just sad that my wife does that to me all the time."
What are you listening to on the iPod? "Here's what I'm not listening to: Fall Out Boy. What am I not reading? I'm not reading 'The Game,' by Neil Strauss. It's sitting by my bed, waiting for me to start it. My wife is so cool. I actually know Neil, when I did Sex and the City, my job was to go into a room and talk to women about masturbating. That set the stage right there. So my wife was cool about everything." He says she is co-writing his next book. "My wife's like the uber-wife. She's almost too good to be true some days. They say, you're making that up. She hates Valentine's Day. I don't have to do anything. She'll say, this is what I want. And then I'll go and buy it for her on the Internet."
"When I met my wife, I was doing open mics. To be able to have gone through this whole journey with her, and because of her, has been awesome. None of this would've happened without her."
What about his own rock ambitions? "There's been talk of making the Black Rattle record this summer," he said. "We do a song on my DVD. We do the Itsy Bitsy Spider...We're going to go into the studio and make the record, The Tyranny of Recess. At some point, I'd love to take the band out. But that's just a lot of people, blah blah blah, and it's a lot of hard work. In stand-up, it' s just you. When everything goes wrong, it's just you. The audience sucked? Well, they wouldn't have sucked if they liked you."
"As comedians, we'll take gigs anywhere. We have such low self-esteem. People will want to do comedy in the strangest places. I did it in the hallway of a school once. Not even a high school. It was just horrible. Everytime I get one of those gigs, I get a stomach-ache. I just want to do comedy clubs. That's where it's meant to be." What was that school gig? "At lunch, they set up a mike. In front of the kids. They said, 'Don't go blue.' I opened for an air-band contest once in Fresno, and got, 'Get off!' You've got to want it if you keep having those experiences and come back for more. I think we're destined to do things. Who would pick stand-up? This might not go well in front of 200 people and they might rebel. I really think it's a calling. I think there are people who are supposed to do it. What the f--k would Attell do? What would (Mitch) Hedberg have done? Brian Regan, same thing. They have to go in front of a room full of people and grab a mike. It's just what I have to do, until I feel like I don't, and then I'll quit. If you feel like it's what you should do, but a full room of people consistently think you shouldn't, maybe then you shouldn't. Maybe you should write about comedy, maybe you should be going to see comedy. You were close."
"I dig writing the books. It's fun. The TV stuff is fun. When I was on Oprah, it was fun. There's nothing like the rush of doing stand-up," he said. "And since I failed so miserably in rock bands, this is the closest I'll come to being a rock star."
Just for fun, what other jobs could you see comedians doing? How about Dave Attell? "He would be an excellent and really fun men's room attendant?" David Cross? "He would be, if there is a move toward anarchy in the United States, he would be our leader. Which is weird. Because anarchists aren't supposed to have leaders. Dave would be a really interesting therapist, too. Kid's got skills. Can't knock him."