Enjoying a walkabout in the city this weekend, a friend and I noticed that in just about any other city, a Fringe Festival takes over the town and you cannot avoid seeing or hearing about it. But in New York City, the Fringe can be happening and you might not even know it. It could just as well be called the Underground festival. Except, oh, that festival is happening in NYC this week, too!
Yes, comedy fans.
If you're in Manhattan, or even Brooklyn, for the rest of August 2010, you have extra options for your entertainment dollar as both the New York International Fringe Festival and the New York Underground Comedy Festival have set up shops. I suppose the simple answer to the question posed by my own headline is that if you're in a black-box theater-type space, then you're at a Fringe show, and if you're in a comedy club or a bar masquerading as a comedy club, then you're at an Underground show. But let's stop trying to answer questions which are moot and answer one that you might find more useful.
Such as, what shows might be worth your time and money at these festivals?
With the Underground Comedy festival, it's always a bit interesting to see what shows they include, because often times, the shows are the same weekly or monthly shows that operate "underground" outside of the city's club system and just happen to be happening with a festival banner this time. See: Morrison Motel, which is happening tonight at Cornelia Street Cafe, with guests including John Oliver and Wyatt Cenac. Very underground? Not very, but still a fun time. Tonight also features the festival's annual "Emerging Comics Contest" at Gotham Comedy Club, which has in years past awarded comedians who have, in fact, emerged. This also is the festival that features the annual "New York's Funniest Reporter" contest. I'm neither competing nor judging this year, so you're all safe! Among other shows to keep an eye on: Franklyn Ajaye is performing Friday at the Green Room at 45 Bleecker, while Ted Alexandro headlines for an hour at Karma on Saturday. Check out the full schedule for lineups and ticket info!
The New York Fringe has dozens of shows listed under the comedy genre this year with multiple performances. I cannot speak for all of them. But I do know about a few of them...
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)!
Tis the season to seek out a funny book that you can pick up and flip through at your leisure this summer, whether you're at the beach, poolside or merely lounging around. Two big comedy projects just had book release parties last night in New York City, while another is having a party next week in San Francisco. All three also have this in common -- VIDEOS! Yes, that's right. Comedy books that are sold and enhanced by online videos.
Here's a quick overview of the three. First up, it's Improv Everywhere, created by UCB-NY performer Charlie Todd and responsible for stunts such as invading a Best Buy with lookalikes, No Pants Subway Rides, freeze-framing Grand Central Station in its tracks, and more. All of which you can view online in some form or another. Now Todd has turned his prowess for choreographed stunt street comedy into a book, Causing A Scene, which you can browse here, then buy here:
And Todd went on NBC's Today Show yesterday to promote it:
Next up: Jeff Kreisler, an award-winning satirist who just had his own timely tome, Get Rich Cheating, released as a book with a party last night at Carolines in NYC. Kreisler's book tour continues next week. You can buy the book here:
And he's also fashioned a series of promo clips, plus this infomercial:
And then there's Kasper Hauser. They have two new books out, Obama's Blackberry and The Weddings of The Times, with a double release party scheduled for June 16 at Cobb's Comedy Club in San Francisco.
Here's a video for the wedding book:
Why sketch comedy in particular? IFC already has renewed The Whitest Kids U' Know, and season two of Z Rock (which includes several roles for comedians) premieres in June. And the network is getting behind several other comedy hybrids this summer, including BBC sketch show Wrong Door, Canadian import The Jon Dore Television Show, a cooking show with puppets and special effects called Food Party, and BBC sitcom Moz. IFC also plans a six-part interview show with the surviving members of Monty Python to air in October.
Kreisler said details about his new IFC blog are, well, sketchy. But you can get to know more about him and the blog here. Go say hello when you get a chance.
When Jon Stewart tore into CNBC's business reporting last week on Comedy Central's The Daily Show, and CNBC's Mad Money man Jim Cramer sat there hopelessly acknowledging his mistakes, there was one guy who watched it go down having an insider's perspective from both sides of the conversation. As comedian Jeff Kreisler pointed out to me via email over the weekend: "My guess is I'm the only person that even remotely bridges the gap between Cramer and Stewart."
All of which made Kreisler view the Stewart-Cramer exchange a little differently. As he explained to me via e-mail yesterday:
Back to the "showdown," one of the great subtexts was the continuing blurring of the line between news & entertainment. "Infotainment" as we call it on "Shoot The Messenger." Just the fact that I've written comedy for both Cramer & Stewart shows that there's a (dangerous?) overlap. When the comedy show becomes a trusted source for news and the news network provides entertainment, where does one turn? Hell, throw Rush Limbaugh, Coulter, Bill Maher all into the mix of infotainers/opinionsters, too. Cramer has been a wildly successful speaker on college campuses, drawing huge crowds who want to see his shenanigans and hear how easy it is to make money. You know who else built up a huge following on college campuses? Dane Cook. Plenty of people will criticize both for the substance of their "acts," but guess what? They're both really successful, and you cannot deny their savvy for recognizing their market and exploiting it. Yes, the news should be austere and serious and informative, but it's not, and I'm not sure we can blame Cramer for being a fantastically vibrant example of that. We could just stop listening to him and hope he goes away. Which he won't.
The Jews seem to have a knack for this comedy thing, don't you know (you knew), and in this new promo video for the upcoming Purim, "The Shushan Channel," previously responsible for "Jewno," goes after the critical and cult favorite AMC drama, Mad Men, with "Meshugene Men." You will recognize Amy Sedaris in the role of Netty Draperberg. Roll it!
Purim Party '09 happens March 9 at the 92YTribeca. Mark your calendars accordingly: Jews who support the ECNY Awards will kindly go to the ECNYs first, then to Tribeca for the late show at 10:30 p.m. Just a gentle gentile reminder.
Directed by Mitch Magee. Written by Sheryl Zohn and Rob Kutner.
Dan Draperberg - Matthew Walton
Peggy Olstein - Megan Neuringer
Sol Romandel - Jeff Kreisler
Pete Cohen - DC Pierson
Roger Sterning - Eric Slovin
Joan Holowitz - Ellie Kemper
Pavel Kinstein - Shek Baker
Christina - Andree Vermeulen
Netty Draperberg - Amy Sedaris
Client - Doug Nervik
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):
Back in the day (that's a term, loosely translated, meaning before you were born), magazines such as the National Lampoon engaged in a practice commonly known as lampooning, sometimes so much so that these lampooners would produce and publish an entire spoof of another news publication. Tony Hendra, who once worked at the Lampoon, masterminded the new buzzed-about parody newspaper My Wall Street Journal (see it online now or later!) that hit the streets Tuesday (though some reports had it surfacing earlier, according to the New York Times, still for the moment an actual newspaper source of record). I spoke with satirist Jeff Kreisler, one of three executive editors on the 24-page paper, which blends elements of Rupert Murdoch's tabloidy tabloid of daily tabloids, the New York Post, with his new acquisition, the Wall Street Journal. Is it also a play on Murdoch's other big get, MySpace? You'll just have to watch the video and find out as Kreisler flips the pages with us from a hotel lounge in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan (does the lounge's electronic music soundtrack enhance or distract from the comedy? we embed, you decide!):
Buy it on Amazon.com with a click!
Furthermore: Kreisler brings his Comedy Against Evil tour to the Purple Onion next weekend, April 25-26.
After the jump, a bonus video in which comedian Tom Shillue gives me and Kreisler advice on where to shoot our interview, with an unexpected guest appearance by Todd Barry!
The 92Y has announced its spring slate of funny and topical discussions about humor on the Upper West Side. So let's see what they've got lined up...
April 9: Garrison Keillor
April 27: Richard Lewis, interviewed by Keith Olbermann
April 28: Norman Lear
May 13: Andy Borowitz on politics and campaign 2008 with Jonathan Alter and Susie Essman
June 10: Ian Frazier
June 26: Laughs from the Left: Political humor with Scott Blakeman, Jeff Kreisler and Jane Condon
For times, prices and further info: Click here.
If you haven't seen Lizz Winstead's latest creation, then you're missing out. Winstead, who co-created The Daily Show and later went on to Air America Radio, now has her sights set on skewering morning TV. Her Monday night show, Shoot the Messenger, recently moved into larger digs at The Green Room at 45 Bleecker. In the new venue, the set design and everything else feels much more like an actual morning TV program (even if it's not actually six hours, as advertised in the tagline for "Wake Up World with Hope and Davis," TV's only six-hour morning 'infonewsment' show). There are the requisite sofa, chair and coffee table. A separate news desk.
Benari Poulten plays the frat-tastic energetic audience warm-up guy. Baron Vaughn as Davis Miles plays affable co-host to Winstead's ridiculous Hope Jean Paul. Each week typically features a taped interview segment with self-help author, "Life Expert" Dana Levan (Carol Hartsell). A big screen behind the stage plays these pre-taped bits, new toons, and last week offered a well-executed debate between other 24/7 network anchors (played by Lucas Held and Sean Crespo) with Vaughn moderating it live.
Here is a segment from last Monday:
And here is a toon they produced about the Democratic horse race:
It's unlike The Daily Show, which makes direct jokes about actual news and newsgatherers, nor is it like The Onion News Network, which is all about fake news. No. Shoot The Messenger aims somewhere in between, poking fun at the actual ridiculousness of morning TV news. After each week's 45-minute production, there's an intermission, after which Winstead returns to the stage as herself to talk about what they're up to, then interviews a special guest. Last week, she talked with Andy Borowitz about the 2008 campaign. Borowitz complimented Winstead on creating "a fully realized character" as well as the technology behind the production.
Tonight's Shoot The Messenger won't be the usual production, however. Instead, Vaughn and Darbi Worley will host a show centered on the several comedians who contribute to the program, with video highlights of their contributions followed by their stand-up. On the bill: Jeff Kreisler, Sean Crespo, Lucas Held, Baron Vaughn, Carol Hartsell and Jamie Kilstein.