The TBS broadcasts from the inaugural Just For Laughs Chicago festival kick off tonight with Let Freedom Hum, a stand-up showcase hosted by a Canadian sketch actor, Martin Short, and featuring very little in the way of humming and nothing that we heard about the joys of freedom. But they put the title on the Internet and your TV listings, so let's just get to it.
As I mentioned last week, Martin Short certainly did his part to enliven the proceedings -- in addition to taped bits that brought back Ed Grimley (without pants!), Jiminy Glick and Lawrence Orbach, Short's opening monologue was both topical and edgy. The audience gasped at a number of his zingers, including one joke in which he called Adam Lambert a fruit, and another in which, in front of several TBS executives, he zinged the network by saying: "Meanwhile, TBS viewers are saying, who knew Tyler Perry was so light-skinned!"
But what about the stand-ups? Chicago native John Roy warmed up the crowd beforehand and delivered one of the better sets of the night, joking about how the locals are tougher because of the city's frigid winters and are fatter because of what they eat (though you'll see none of this on TV tonight, Roy did tape a performance at Zanies last weekend for a new stand-up series TBS will debut later this year).
Earlier in the day, I caught up with Tom Papa and Kathleen Madigan as they ran through their promotional photo shoots. Through the magic of my Flip cam and the snapshot function, this moment in time has been captured for posterity. I think Papa had powder in his eye. Or he's winking at us! Either way, Papa got things rolling on the right note once he hit the stage, mocking billionaires who have been killing themselves because, having lost their money in the recession, they could not stand to live like the rest of us. He also poked fun at his own life as a husband and father, and had the audience in stitches as he recounted trying to have a conversation with his parents online via Skype. Madigan was next up, and wanted us all to know how not to be jealous of her for having to visit her parents outside of St. Louis, and how much drinking must be involved to cope with life as a Madigan. She also curiously was eager to revisit the 2008 presidential election and Hillary Clinton vs. Barack Obama (did I mention we were in Chicago?) and expressed the fact that she was too cynical for hope.
Martin Short blew into Chicago this week and created a flurry of excitement with the return of some of his most famous comedy characters, and may have even topped that last night by delivering zingers that shocked the live audience for the taping of Let Freedom Hum, the TBS special from Just For Laughs Chicago that will air a week from today, at 10 p.m. June 26.
The live audience, which included Second City legends Harold Ramis, SCTV co-founder Andrew Alexander and producer Joyce Sloane (Short saluted each of them individually during breaks in the taping), saw Short open the stand-up comedy special with a taped sketch featuring Short in a scene as a pantsless Ed Grimley, who upon getting the TBS gig, breaks into song, knocks out Kevin Nealon in a cameo and gets a radical face tattoo. Once he took the stage, Short meant to knock himself down a peg or two, suggesting he was the cable network's second choice after disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich -- but Short tripped over Blago's name and decided to switch the target to Robert Blake. That was quickly followed by this aside directed toward the network and its most popular comedy programming : "Meanwhile, TBS viewers are saying, who knew Tyler Perry was so light-skinned!"
That would seem rather tame, however, compared to these quips from Short that drew gasps from the audience:
To his accompanying pianist, Jeff Babko (the keyboardist in Jimmy Kimmel's late-night TV band), Short said that his new daughter was named Tangerine because they wanted to pick a fruity name, "Tangerine if a girl, Adam Lambert if it was a boy." (Pictured at left: Martin Short with Jeff Babko performing live Thursday night at The Vic Theatre in Chicago, by Edward Pio Roda)
On the difference between hockey and Scientology: "Unlike Scientology, hockey has let Katie Holmes escape."
On tensions in the world: "Look at Iran...They had fraudulent voting in a fixed election. Good thing that would never happen here in Chicago!"