When Paul Rust isn't writing a screenplay for Pee-wee Herman, Harris Wittels isn't writing an episode of Parks and Recreation, and Michael Cassady isn't appearing in TV episodes or the UCB-LA Harold Team Arts & Athletics and sketch team A Kiss From Daddy, the trio is making comedy music together in their self-described "piano-weirdo-pop" band, Don't Stop or We'll Die. Here is a video for their song, "I Got A Perm For Our Camping Trip." They're performing July 27 at the Steve Allen Theater in Los Angeles with guests Garfunkel and Oates, Nick Offerman and Scott Aukerman. Bonus: For you Del Close Marathon fans, Rust and Cassady are both on the schedule this coming weekend for DCM12. What more do I need to say? Roll it.
Here's one fool-proof way to figure out if your career is hot: If you have more movie deals than most of the nominees when you host the MTV Movie Awards ceremony, then you win! That's you, Aziz Ansari. Ansari already sold three movie pitches to Judd Apatow, but that didn't stop him from sealing a fourth movie deal this week with Mandate Pictures, based on a pitch that involves Ansari and Danny McBride (who is producing in a first-look deal with Mandate), on a script to be written by Harris Wittels. (Read the trade report at THR)
Ansari hosts the MTV Movie Awards on June 6. Here's a new promo playing off of The Hurt Locker, with Ansari's explosive pants scaring off Kristen Bell. Roll the clip!
One of my first stops on my Hollywood misadventure was to The Paley Center for Media's Beverly Hills branch for a behind-the-scenes discussion with the cast and crew of NBC's Parks and Recreation -- a sitcom that I feel has found a funnier level in its second season following its unusual debut launch in the spring. But we can let the people involved with the show explain that.
Seemed as though many of the audience members in attendance worked for nearby local governments and wanted to let the cast and crew know how "spot-on" they were in nailing life inside Town Hall. Here is a guy who looks like Nick Offerman posing with the actor. I could have told them this as well, having covered various local governments in Idaho and Washington state as a newspaper reporter -- and sakes alive, bubba jive, you have not lived until you've discovered the soap opera mini-dramas of a water and sewer district. Let me tell you. Or not. Let's focus, people! Pawnee, Indiana, you're on the air, fictional city.
Greg Daniels said they had to pick a fictional town. His other NBC sitcom, The Office, may be set in a real place (Scranton, Penn.), but the town is not the driving force of the plot; it's the people in the office. In Parks and Rec, however, the town is the focus. And if they make fun of the mayor being caught up in a scandal, that would be a real person they'd be joking about. So when you go to pawneeindiana.com, you'll be living a second life in another world. But you know that in Internets speak, governments are .gov.
What else did we learn? Well, we saw that this week's episode, "Hunting Trip," takes a dramatic turn when SPOILER ALERTS.
We've got ourselves a big Monday here, which means it's time to catch up on what's been happening in comedy and see if we missed anything. First up, what funny things from comedians have I posted recently over on The Laugh Track?
But that's not all. There was also some comedy in the news. Such as, for instance, this, that and the other thing:
Showtime offers something new in an old-fashioned way tonight with the premiere of a six-episode summer stand-up showcase called Live Nude Comedy.
Shannon Elizabeth hosts, and before you start thinking you'll see her perform stand-up in the nude, well, not quite. Elizabeth (who became famous going nude in American Pie, and later learned professional poker, then Dancing With the Stars) will perform in brief comedy sketches with a group of performers that incluldes Josh Fadem, Chad Fogland, Michael Busch and Ramsey Moore. Each episode also will include two burlesque performances. Oh, and yes, there will be stand-up comedy. In fact, each half-hour will spotlight two stand-ups and give each an uncensored 10-minute set. Whitney Cummings, who performs on one of the episodes, also helped put the production together. She sat down with me for a few minutes during the Just For Laughs Chicago comedy festival to explain her motivations, including what she felt was a need to put new stand-ups in their best possible light (as in, longer sets, no censorship, fewer fake reaction shots). Watch:
The full schedule and listings (and a teaser video!) appears after the jump...
It's official. Via The Hollywood Reporter comes news that Comedy Central has agreed to a third season of The Sarah Silverman Program, a 10-episode order that had come into doubt over the weekend when Silverman and her fellow executive producers threatened to quit unless they could retain an adequate production budget for said third season.
At issue: The second season had ended Dec. 11, 2008, and previously, Comedy Central was quick to renew the series. This time, however, Comedy Central had suggested Silverman's crew produce the third-season episodes for $850,000 an episode, down from $1.1 million. The E.P.'s all said no thanks and threatened to walk on Friday. By Monday, Comedy Central was talking to sister network Logo on a financial and content sharing agreement, and the deal was struck. It's not that much of a stretch. Silverman appeals to gay audiences, and has two main characters (comedians Brian Posehn and Steve Agee) portray a gay stoner couple. Writing should begin shortly with new episodes airing most likely in 2010.
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.