Nick Kroll has said that he pitched his first one-hour special to Comedy Central as his "one-man Muppet Show." But he gets a lot of help from his friends in Thank You Very Cool, which aired Saturday night on the network. And speaking of Saturday night, what's remarkable about Kroll's comedy is just how much he is an Saturday Night Live kind of star without being on SNL.
Kroll doesn't even tell jokes onstage as himself until after the first commercial break.
Before then, we get introduced through taped pieces not only to each of Nick Kroll's characters, three of whom -- Fabrice Fabrice, Bobby Bottleservice and El Chupacabra -- are as popular as any recurring character on SNL, except Kroll has honed and refined his alter-egos live on smaller club stages and online through Funny or Die and podcasts. We also get to meet Gil Faizon (Kroll) and George St. Geegland (John Mulaney, who writes for SNL), the duo's "Oh, Hello" caricature of Upper West Siders who in this special, play the Muppet version of Statler and Waldorf.
The opening scenes also feature fellow comedian Chelsea Peretti in the green room, and Lake Bell getting the TSA treatment outside from bouncer Bobby Bottleservice. Mindy Kaling (The Office) gets surprised later when she finds Bottleservice working in the women's restroom.
Bobby B. also gets to be the first performer shown onstage in front of the crowd at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, where the special was filmed in November. Very Cool, indeed. In giving the announcements to the audience, Bottleservice spouts off such wisdom as "Safety first! But also, be dangerous." He lays down the ground rules and reveals more than a bit about "himself." For one thing, his DJ name -- DJ Oriental Immigrant -- isn't racist. For another, although he has gone online and made his case to join the Jersey Shore cast, he's not about the GTL. For him, it's VJR. "Vodka. Jesus. Revenge."
As for Kroll's stand-up as himself, it's not breaking new ground, exactly, to describe the woes of visiting the DMV, comedians going on job interviews, or the differences between dogs and cats.
But his ability to act out the premises, either as himself or in character, overcomes the banality of the premise, when you see him twirling his body around as a kitty cat, or watch him figuring out how to pack for a trip to Jamaica while he's extremely drunk. Even when he's just being himself, he manages to get away with a Michael Jackson joke by imagining having to explain the late singer to his future child.
Roll the clip:
Remember, though, that Kroll is trying to pull off something that's more than just stand-up and actually lives up to the special part of the comedy special. As he told The AV Club in a recent interview:
"I feel like we have so many different ways to express ourselves now, and I relish, I feel very lucky to be doing comedy at this time. It’s a real democratic time for comedy, and I think my special is a sign for that. You don’t have to just be a classic stand-up to get a special, or you don’t just have to be on Saturday Night Live to do characters and sketch on TV. The web has allowed me to show that there are different ways to make people laugh, and the special is a combination of those things. For me, the goal wasn’t to turn the stand-up special on its head, but to do what I do specifically, and hopefully that reads as something new."
So we get just as much time away from the stage as we do with Kroll as himself telling jokes.
Brandon Johnson (last seen by many as the DJ for Aziz Ansari's alter-ego, Raaaaaandy) has to put up with the "Oh, Hello" guys when they make a break for the bar and prepare their own custom cocktail, the Martuna. Yes. Tuna. Notice how Kroll remains committed to the bit.
We also get to see El Chupacabra -- a Mexican radio DJ who pops up in podcasts (relive my encounter with Kroll as El Chupacabra interviewed for WTF with Marc Maron) -- realize his full potential in his own scenes. Hello, baby! Dumb baby. Oh. When you see a website address flash on the screen, if you do visit www.911punto9.com, you'll head to an El Chupacabra site with plenty of videos from this special.
Fabrice Fabrice also gets to saunter away from the crafts services table and onto the stage. Kroll has brought Fabrice Fabrice out in public before (see last year's John Oliver New York Stand-Up Show, for example), but here, he let hims improvise slam poetry based on audience suggestions. In an unaired bit, which will show up later on the extended DVD version of the special, Fabrice Fabrice also took questions from the audience.
While Fabrice Fabrice is onstage, the camera cuts back to Kroll, shown backstage muttering, "This is eating time out of my special."
More like chewing up the scenery. Which when Kroll does it, is very cool thank you.
So much thrilling college football and playoff baseball went late into the night on Saturday, so much so that I barely noticed anyone talking about or even thinking about a new Saturday Night Live. Would this lack of buzz help or hurt the program? Let's find out!
About the cold open. We're close to midterm elections for Congress, and sure, that's news. But it's weird seeing a kid -- excuse me, young man -- play an old man from Nevada. It's even weirder seeing Jay Pharoah have to stand behind Fred Armisen for an entire sketch as Armisen does a Barack Obama impersonation that nobody cares about anymore, while Pharoah was hired solely based on his ability to do impersonations such as Obama! I spent so much time watching Pharoah's half-smiling silence for clues. Did you see him clap extra hard that one time? Oh, Vanessa Bayer also was called in for stand-in, clapping/smiling duty. Is there something I missed? Oh, what's that. Comedy. Oh. Right. Comedy. I missed the comedy in this sketch. U.S. Sen. Harry Reid will double-cross Obama for the sake of your votes. There was supposed to be a joke in there somewhere. Fun fact, though: Newbie Paul Brittain got to see "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!" So there was that. Now how about the rest of the show?
Emma Stone is 21 years old. Almost 22. She says, "I have wanted to be on this stage since I was a little girl." And now she is, and she is wearing old lady pantaloons. I don't know why. I first remember seeing her on a reality-show competition to find a new version of the Partridge Family. She also played the role of the cute, potentially attainable young girl in a couple of lighthearted comedy movies. I suppose somewhere in there, you can make the case that she could, would and should host a night of live, televised sketch comedy. The monologue posts fun at her fans being nerds who want to make out with her, with Kenan Thompson playing Nerd Audience Member Number One, Bill Hader as Nerd Audience Member Number Two, Andy Samberg as Nerd Audience Member Number Three, Bobby Moynihan and Taran Killam as Jonah Hill and Michael Cera (sort of). Voices better than looks.
Fake ad! Hader and Kristen Wiig are parents of a fat baby. Wait. Aren't all babies fat? So that'd mean all babies are in the market for Baby Spanx! Unless you realize that since all babies are fat, that means no babies are fat. Another dilemma solved. Thank you and good night. Also featured: Nasim Pedrad, Bayer, Thompson and Jason Sudeikis as the spokesman. Funny visuals, though. Oh, baby.
In her fourth variety special for TBS, and second filmed from the Just For Laughs Chicago comedy festival, Ellen DeGeneres welcomes back Nick Cannon as her DJ, and also showcases the quick-change artists seen previously on America's Got Talent, acrobats, a magician, a heartfelt audience Q&A that -- since today marked Gay Pride Parades around the country -- seems more than fitting for DeGeneres, and a guest stand-up performance by Chicago native John Mulaney.
The Mulaney clip isn't online yet -- Ellen's Somewhat Special Special debuts at 9 p.m. Eastern tonight on TBS -- but includes his observations on how old crimes could easily become Cold Case Files, and a rephrasing of his routine on what he'd do with the big budgets for blockbuster movies.
Here, though, is a sneak peek at Ellen's opening monologue, with observations about Chicago, names, and and an appearance by the Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks.
We open cold with President Obama (Fred Armisen) blabbing away something about financial reform, and yes, I know Obama gave a speech to Wall Street on Thursday, but that doesn't mean we can go a couple of minutes into the show without a single joke or laugh line. Not a one. I started to fall asleep. Granted, I'm working on very little sleep over the weekend, but still. You know how some political comedians say the jokes sometimes write themselves? It's also nice when comedians write something funny, too, just in case the real-life joke isn't so funny.
Gabourey Sidibe is hosting. You know that famous comedic actress? Well, she's young, right? That's all that counts, right? I don't know what counts. She's not going to be one of those sassy young big black women, is she? One thing's for certain. She's not Precious. But she is singing with the SNL cast in the background as part of the doo-wop phase that reminds us how great black people had it in the 1950s. So great. Fun fact: The last time I was in the Pacific time zone and missed SNL when it aired live, January Jones was the host. That turned out great. So great. Lowering expectations now. Even knowing what I know a full day later.
Oh, look, it's the return of SNL's Suze Orman parody, starring Kristen Wiig as Orman, dispensing financial advice on the TV. Sidibe plays a Jamaican nurse guest who wrote a book. Orman has some jokes about her lesbian cat and such, but they're not big laughs, and Sidibe is focused too much on reading her cue cards on the first take. I'll say this: Wiig is good at channeling Orman. This sketch falling somewhat flat is not her fault.
For some reason, that reason most likely being Kenan Thompson developing his Steve Harvey impersonation, we get a spoof of game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire, with guest host Steve Harvey (Kenan Thompson), and contestants played by Abby Elliott, Bobby Moynihan and Sidibe. Bill Hader provides the voiceover. They also use this sketch as an excuse for Harvey to stumble over the pronunciation of Iceland's volcano and cities. There's a throwaway line at the end suggesting Larry the Cable Guy would guest host Wheel of Fortune. So, that means this sketch is suggesting that comedians should not be game show hosts? If that's the underlying message, then why, SNL, why?
We're on a stoop with Armisen and Thompson, being told to quiet down by an old lady (Sidibe), old Mrs. Johnson. Sidibe is messing up her lines again. And yet, you see, the point is she's not an old crazy lady, but an old lady who knows a lot about a lot of the things she is yelling.
SNL Digital Short: Cherry Battle. Does it make sense? Should it? Is it referencing something none of us know? Is it a technical marvel to show Samberg and Sidibe spitting several cherries from one mouth to the other? That last question is a surefire yes. Weird, but proudly so.
Even three time zones away, my radar went nuts overnight tonight with people buzzing about brilliant young stand-up comedian John Mulaney, who is a writer for Saturday Night Live and got his own segment during SNL's Weekend Update last night. Seth Meyers tossed to Mulaney so he could opine for a few minutes about the Girl Scouts, their wonderful cookies, and their horrible sales and marketing program. That's really all I need to say to set up this clip. Roll the clip! We all look forward to more topical Weekend Update missives from Mr. Mulaney. That's going to happen, right? Right? Right. Roll it.
Georgetown is back in the NCAA men's basketball tournament, and comedian John Mulaney is pulling for his alma mater, albeit from far away, as he's headlining his first New York City club this weekend at Carolines. And even if he'd rather be playing for the Hoyas himself.
Do you get into the spirit of it all? "March Madness? Yeah, I didn't get to go see them or do too much, Third Avenue and 20th Street bar-hopping, but I was very happy for Georgetown," Mulaney told me. "I just get jealous for any sports season, whether it's the NCAAs, the World Series, Super Bowl, the Olympics. But I'm such a horrible athlete." Why so jealous, then? "Because I'm horrible at basketball. I still think in my head, I could become a professional athlete if I worked hard enough...but I was so bad at basketball when I was a kid that I feel jealous when I see people who are good at it."
Do you fill out brackets at work or with friends? "No, that always confuses me. When people hand me a bracket, it's like they're saying: 'How would you like to be confused for a month?' And I say, OK..."
Before we get too far off the track of comedy, here's a short video interview John Mulaney gave last year in which he talked about his influences. And yes, they go way back.
You can also relive my previous interview with Mulaney, which took place after his first day on the job as a writer at Saturday Night Live. A year and a half later, I wondered how he felt about balancing his gig at SNL with his life as a stand-up comedian. So far, so good, he said.
"SNL is very intense when it's intense, and then we have stretches where we're off and on a break. So it does work out just fine in terms of being able to perform," Mulaney said. "Oh, I worry about everything all the time. It's a very consuming job, but not all-consuming. There is time for other things."
If you get to see James Franco's new documentary, Saturday Night, which premiered at SXSW earlier this week, you'll see that intense process and how Mulaney is a part of it all. "I remember him being there, obviously. I had heard he was doing it for a class, and then he had a longer cut of it...but I have not seen it. I've only heard. What's instresting is, I guess, he was given much more access than most people. I know there was a show called Iconoclasts that did a show on Lorne Michaels and did some footage backstage. But (Franco) got to do a very thoughtful piece on what life is like backstage that other people haven't gotten to do yet."
Please forgive me if my excitement was neither fast nor furious over the prospect of a second hosting gig for Seth Rogen at the helm of Saturday Night Live. I simply have not jumped on the bandwagon that everything Rogen (or, for that matter, the Judd Apatow crew) touches turns to comedy gold. And if, as you recall, Rogen/Apatow films don't exactly give women much of a role to play other than furthering the bromances, this might help guide you. So with expectations sufficiently diminished, perhaps I would be in for a treat this weekend...
And yet, the cold open did not start things on the right foot. We began with a message from President Barack Obama (Fred Armisen), and from the get-go, Armisen's vocal impersonation was not up to par. Not sure why. But it just wasn't there. The premise, that Obama taking a break from the European lovefest had to prove that the hands-on approach to the auto industry was not a fluke by announcing he'd make rulings on individual companies in every other industry, had merit. But what followed just seemed so random. Like a series of non sequiturs, with Armisen's Obama weighing in on major American companies in riding lawnmowers, air conditioners, blue jeans, coffee makers, light bulbs (GE alert!), reclining chairs, baseball gloves, toothpastes, frozen shrimp, ballpoint pens, trench coats, plastic vomit, window shades, mens underwear, colleges, NFL teams, stroke magazines, and soft drinks. A couple of chuckles, but just due to the randomness of it all.
The monologue gave Seth Rogen a chance to acknowledge his weight loss -- "For one thing, I lost about one million pounds" -- and also other things that had changed since the first time he hosted SNL. Rogen learned how to pronounce Lorne's name. The writers have stopped helping him write the monologue, which he used as the excuse to take questions from "the audience": Kristen Wiig mocked him for doing a mall cop movie right after Paul Blart, while Jason Sudeikis took the cue-card material to a higher level by outright mocking him, Bill Hader appeared as Rogen's angry pizza delivery guy (read: weed delivery guy), and Bobby Moynihan appeared as a guy angry because Rogen's weight loss ruined his game as a guy who impersonated Rogen to pick up the ladies (he had to switch it up to Jonah Hill to hit on Abby Elliott's audience member character).
Instead of a fake ad in this slot, we got a fake movie ad, and, hello, if you know anything about the movie canon of Seth Rogen, you know it's full of bromantic gayish without being gay comedies. So why not have Rogen and Andy Samberg act as if they're going to make out in a trailer for The Fast and The Bi-Curious, with Elliott on the sidelines as the hottie they're nottie interested in. Knowing these guys makes it less of a surprising choice, but does it lessen the comedic impact? I don't know.
John Mulaney finally gets some more exposure this weekend with the debut of his first half-hour Comedy Central Presents. At the taping last summer, he got a legitimate standing ovation (TV tapings notoriously get the crowd extra excited, but this time the ovation was warranted). A couple of notes: Mulaney went with a simple brick wall background and a lone chair, which at least one person has told me was a nod to departed venue Rififi. Also, his opening bit here about a subway misunderstanding no longer has the local Long Island City reference, presumably because audiences around the world probably don't laugh as much knowing about the joys of the G and 7 trains.
Not coincidentally, Comedy Central Records also has released a full-length CD from Mulaney, The Top Part. At 49 minutes, it's all great stuff, recorded in November 2008 at the Punchline in San Francisco. Recording outside of NYC gave Mulaney a chance to allow audience members to discover him, rather than already adore him as they do here in the city. Although I would tell you that if you like what you see and hear here, you really need to see him live, when his old-school delivery tends to be even more animated. Who uses the term "hobo" to describe someone's vision of Donald Trump? Who knows how to dress down drag queens? Who knows how many times one should play "What's New, Pussycat?" in a row? John Mulaney, that's who! You can read my interview with him from last summer if you need catching up.
Here is a clip from the start of his Comedy Central Presents:
|John Mulaney - Subway Station Chase|
More after the jump...
When I heard that Pete Holmes wanted to celebrate his 30th birthday by having his friends and fellow stand-up comedians roast him, my first thought was that he had lost his mind. And then I attended the roast last night at the UCB, and was quickly reminded that this is a rare opportunity for comedians to unleash not only their mocking jabs at one another, but also some heartfelt tender moments. But you didn't click here looking for heartfelt or tender, did you? As Holmes himself said during the show: "I want it to be meaner!"
Leo Allen, the regular host of Monday night's Whiplash, served as the roastmaster (pictured here by Mindy Tucker) -- and despite allegedly forgetting that the roast was happening, managed to find several zingers up his sleeves. The dais was a regular who's who of New York City's current crop of up-and-coming comedians, with John Mulaney, Anthony Jeselnik and Kumail Nanjiani represented. Also on board: TJ Miller, who flew in for the event, Jared Logan, David Angelo, Nate Fernald, Seth Herzog, a tardy Julian McCullough and Holmes' girlfriend, Jamie Lee. Here are a few of the many zingers I managed to jot down for posterity:
I wondered how many of the audience members knew what they were in for (there were a dozen or two other comics scattered in the seats, too), and I knew it'd be something when one young woman, when asked by Allen if she knew who Holmes was, shouted: "Security in the basement!" Yeah, that's a Greg Johnson bit. ROASTED!
We could call this the week that everything old is new again. Because it is! In a good way? Let's see in the SNL recap...(videos added when available)
COLD OPEN: Tracy Morgan on video describing the energy from being in Rockefeller Plaza on a Saturday night. He came in 12 years ago as a puppy and left as a man! "This is my building! This is my home!" Cue the problems getting into back into his home. As someone who recently watched Morgan host a TV special, I can see why they didn't even attempt to do this live -- for one thing, the building has so much activity going on during the day that'd it be tough to shoot; and for another, Morgan's opening speech probably took a couple of takes. That said, it's not a political sketch! We already have established an early victory tonight, and this is before anyone has said, "Live from New York, it's Saturday night!" OK. Where were we? In the NBC lobby/foyer/security area. Berserker! Tracy starts clobbering his way into the building, past security, past fans in the elevator, past the NBC page who's really SNL writer and humorous book author Simon Rich! But can he get past pro rassler John Cena? And...now we're live. Tina Fey cameo!?
Let's get this party started!
THE MONOLOGUE: "Thank you, white people!" Right off the bat, Morgan makes a so funny because it's true statement that reflects the surreality of the situation. In tonight's show, he'll likely appear in more sketches than he did during his seven-year run in the SNL cast! He clarifies his fish tank apartment fire, making fun of how the mainstream press portrayed his accident. Does this slideshow look ghetto? Morgan calls Lorne Michaels "my Obi-Wan Kenobi." Interesting to see both Michaels and Seth Meyers holding glasses of wine, because, well, isn't the show on the air right now? They just couldn't wait until 1 a.m., I suppose.
AD SPOOF -- CHEWABLE PAMPERS: They've recycled ads in past years, so it's not as if I can fault them for it now. Or can I? (No, I cannot) Stars Kristen Wiig and Jason Sudeikis.
BRIAN FELLOW'S SAFARI PLANET: And one of Morgan's SNL characters gets first dibs tonight, with voiceover introduction from Darrell Hammond. Fellow's first guest is a baby cow (with Sudeikis as the calf's owner). Something about having live farm animals on live TV (and not on a talk-show with professional handlers) tends to led to unexpected funnies. A red-tailed halk (on Andy Samberg's arm) makes Fellow say his catchphrase: "That's crazy!" And some silly questions. Fellow gets distracted by imaginary conversations with animals. It all plays perhaps a bit funnier than before simply because Morgan has established such a reputation for crazy during his 30 Rock phase that we hear his line readings differently now. At least that's my first impression of it.
Saturday Night Live returned last night after two weeks off with a fresh case of spring fever and a ham sandwich of a host, and although I cannot say that any of the sketches are instant classics, I can say that the entire show was at least fairly funny from start to finish, and that is quite commendable. This also marks the first time that almost the entire show is available for viewing online. Wow. Let's get to recapping!
MONOLOGUE: The Rock's third time hosting, notes he has beaten Tony Danza, now tied with Rob Lowe. Jokes his nine-year transformation has gone so well, he didn't get cast in "The Wrestler." He breaks into song, singing how he's still tough. Flanked by Abby Elliott and Kristen Wiig in black lingerie. Kenan Thompson "hits" him with a chair, for a seductive chair dance. Fred Armisen plays his effiminate trainer/choreographer/roommate.
MACGRUBER: With MacGyver (Richard Dean Anderson)! Wiig plays the assistant Vicky as always. Wait a second. Isn't this what they did in that Pepsi Super Bowl ad that got everyone riled up? Not quite. This time, it's an actual MacGruber sketch, as MacGyver as "new guy" waxes nostalgic in a flashback (10 seconds?!) to when he and his missus (Elliott) give birth to a boy in an abandoned hospital in December 1972. Jason Sudeikis plays the doc. And MacGyver names him MacGruber. MacGruber MacGyver. Plot twist! But wait, there's more. Michaela Watkins plays the assistant to MacGyver and...
Here comes easily the best scene that you knew was coming, almost.
Oh, Hello! Paramount Pictures announced today it'll make Freshman Roommates, a comedy movie starring Tracy Morgan and TJ Miller, and written by comedians John Mulaney and Nick Kroll -- based on the premise that one of the many scam e-mails from an African prince looking to inherit his wealth is, in fact, not a scam at all. Morgan will star as the son of a deposed African dictator, while Miller presumably plays the young man who answers the e-mail. (Variety)
Mulaney and Kroll, who met at Georgetown University and improvised together there, later established their comedy credentials together here in New York City with their UCB hit, "Oh, Hello!" and as panelists on VH1's Best Week Ever, as well as separately -- Mulaney as an impressive stand-up comedian (his first Comedy Central Presents debuts in the first weeks of 2009) and writer for Saturday Night Live; Kroll as an actor in sitcoms such as Worst Week and Cavemen, online in Rob Corddry's new Childrens' Hospital, voice work in Life & Times of Tim and the upcoming Sit Down, Shut Up, as well as the 2009 movie, I Love You Man.
The Comic's Comic contacted Mulaney and Kroll today and asked them very briefly to state why they pitched and sold Freshman Roommates before exploring an Oh, Hello! feature. They politely replied:
It might be easy to forget that B.J. Novak is a stand-up comedian, because he's still in his 20s and pretty much everyone knows him as the writer/producer/actor from NBC's The Office. At Sunday night's "B.J. Novak and friends" show at Town Hall to close out the 2008 New York Comedy Festival, the biggest applause from the audience came for mere mentions of the sitcom, Novak or his friend from the show, Mindy Kaling. When Paul Rust opened the show with his "solo performance piece," aka "Salvation Through the Ring," aka his mimed tribute to a popular morning children's television program, then promptly disappeared, the crowd didn't quite know what to expect on this night.
Not to worry, though, as Novak's friends also included college chum Dan Mintz, who seemed more at ease in his 15-minutes of absurd one-liners than I'd seen him in a while (perhaps New York City is growing on him), and John Mulaney, who hosted the show and provided more than a half-hour of funny at the start and also in between acts. This could have just as easily had been this year's "Young Comedians" special, if HBO still was in that business. I wish Rust had done more to showcase his talents, and wonder why Simon Rich only performed for a New York minute by reading a very short tale about firehouse dogs. Kaling entered to adoring approval from the crowd, who didn't seem to mind that she read from notes throughout her 13-minute set, even to note that Obama won the election. She recovered nicely with a quip: "I had to look at my cheat sheet to remember that, because I have Memento disease." Her best bit examined how and why people use the phrase "devil's advocate," although Perez Hilton will likely be more eager to learn that Kaling said she her fellow Office writers are regular readers of his gossip site.
As for Novak, a suspicious opening routine about a guy who posted a Craigslist ad looking for a date to that night's show revealed itself to be a true story and therefore more auspicious than suspicious, with the guy arriving to his loge seat solo. (Note: If a friend reads this review and says Novak did this bit elsewhere, revert back to suspiciousness) Novak used him to good comic effect and also displayed his stand-up know-how with a couple of callbacks later in his 45-minute set. His showcase set pieces included a reading from "Wikipedia Brown and The Case of the Missing Bicycle," an alt-ventriloquism routine with "Shy Puppet," which ends with Novak asking the audience to take pictures of him with the puppet to litter the online landscape, and ends with close to 15 minutes of jokes on index cards that he "tries out" on the audience, with keepers going back into his briefcase and losers going into the trash can next to him onstage.
You see what Novak looks like now. Here is what he looked like as an aspiring young stand-up comedian on Comedy Central's Premium Blend more than five years ago, with a version of a bit he told onstage Sunday:
The UCB Theatre in New York City has a tradition of offering great stand-up comedy showcases for free late-night Mondays. For a while, Aziz Ansari hosted the showcase under the name Crash Test. Then Ansari got all Human Giant, and the showcases took a break. Leo Allen has taken over hosting duties in the 11 p.m. Monday timeslot, now known as Whiplash. This week, audiences got treated to Allen, Sean Patton, Eugene Mirman, Janeane Garofalo, John Mulaney and Hannibal Buress. For free! (Well, there is the "Bucket of Truth" to accept your comedy donations afterward, but still...) So imagine my surprise this week to see the house only half full?! You're missing out, people!
Janeane Garofalo, pictured here resting her bad back. "Mama's got a bum stem!" she told the crowd. Photo by Mindy Tucker. More photos at With Reservation.
Eugene Mirman has announced the planned lineups for his crazy-yet-true-because-it-is-Eugene-after-all comedy festival named for him, taking place Sept. 25-28 in Brooklyn. Mirman pretty much has it covered -- most of his usual and unusual suspects will appear over those four days and nights at two venues, Union Hall (where Mirman already hosts the popular Tearing the Veil of Maya showcase on Sundays with Michael Showalter in Park Slope) and The Bell House (a new joint the Union Hall folks are opening nearby).
Time Out NY playfully hinted at what a Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival might look like, with hints from Mirman himself.
Want to see who's scheduled to perform?
Mulaney spent more than a bit of his summer writing for the upcoming Comedy Central sketch and variety show, Important Things with Demetri Martin, still tentatively slated for an October debut. The writing staff there included head writer Michael Koman (previously on staff at Conan), Jon Benjamin, Dan Mintz, and of course, Martin himself. "It was great. I was working with some of the funniest people I've ever met," Mulaney said of that experience. "The bar was set high. It was challenging. You wanted to make people like Jon Benjamin laugh. It feels good when you do."
That wasn't Mulaney's first TV writing credit, either. "I had done a couple of small projects, and I'd written a pilot for Comedy Central with Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter before." No, not the show the network greenlighted this summer, but a previous pilot project from last year.
Though still relatively young as both a stand-up and a writer, Mulaney offered this perspective on his recent experience with Martin's show versus writing for himself. "It wasn't easy or hard. You could be more comfortable because you're working with other people, sitting around with people you trust," he said. "That was great to be writing for someone like Demetri who is really open to a lot of different ideas...and is extremely hilarious."
Now Mulaney has an even bigger pool of talent to work with at NBC's legendary Saturday Night Live.
In an industry where people can get rich and famous for anything but merit, Mulaney's success, even at the tender age of 25, is something upon which everyone can agree and can celebrate. Especially when we're talking about a comedian who got his start onstage when he was 7. At 25, he brings a maturity that speaks beyond his years. So when we spoke on the phone, he naturally downplayed his youth.
"I'm 47 years old. Isn't that hilarious? It makes so much more sense now," he tells me. "No, I'm 25. People have started younger than me. I sometimes have regretted starting late. Starting at 20, because I could have done it in high school...but I'm glad I got to do normal things when I was young."
Wait. Wait, wait, wait a second. 20? Didn't you start comedy much younger than that? Right.
"I always liked hanging out with adults and getting them to like me. In that sketch group Rugrats I was in (when I was 7)...and I was Nixon for Halloween when I was 10, and that was just to make parents laugh. I'd try to be funny. But it'd be nonsensical. I'd just parrot things I heard adults say. Like, 'You need a lawyer.' I'd just say expressions."
Where did that onstage presence come from, though? You don't sound like a young stand-up.
"I grew up with The Simpsons and Wayne's World and everything else, but at the same time, I was listening to a lot of Jack Benny and Bob & Ray and Burns and Allen stuff. To me, I knew the comedy that existed, but at the same time, part of being an entertainer, to me, was those guys. I don't know how I reconciled that in my mind. I watched Jack Benny, but I watched a lot of Desi Arnez, too. I watched a lot of I Love Lucy as a child," Mulaney said. "I don't know why I'd be mature, but as far as cadence, and, I've listened to comedy my whole life and a lot of that was old-fashioned entertainers. My first thought about being an entertainer was being a bandleader. I'd be a Cuban bandleader. Like Desi Arnez."
When you arrived at Georgetown University, did you realize that you were attending a new hotbed for stand-up comedians (Jim Gaffigan, Mike Birbiglia and Nick Kroll are just a few of the other recent Hoyas to make a name for themselves in the comedy scene)?
Free tickets are available to this year's Comedy Central Presents tapings in New York City, taping shows in pairs from Aug. 24-29, 2008 at the Hudson Theater. I believe Bo Burnham is setting a land-speed record by getting a half-hour TV special before he enrolls in college at NYU and just days after turning 18! Here are your pairings, with links for tickets to each:
6 p.m. Aug. 24: Pete Lee, Rebecca Corry
8 p.m. Aug. 24: Joe DeRosa, Brian Scolaro
6 p.m. Aug. 25: Dan Levy, Bo Burnham
8 p.m. Aug. 25: Jasper Redd, Eddie Ifft
6 p.m. Aug. 26: Greg Warren, Josh Blue
8 p.m. Aug. 26: Erin Foley, Chris Porter
6 p.m. Aug. 27: Anthony Jeselnik, Doug Benson
8 p.m. Aug. 27: Kurt Metzger, Tom Rhodes
6 p.m. Aug. 28: Jamie Lissow, Greer Barnes
8 p.m. Aug. 28: Tommy Johnigan, Jimmy Carr
6 p.m. Aug. 29: John Mulaney, Kristen Schaal
8 p.m. Aug. 29: Red Grant, Rob Stapleton
Only now unwinding from my second tour through the Upright Citizen Brigade's Del Close Marathon, which ended Sunday night (though starting the tour after an all-nighter to Washington, D.C., and back probably contributed to the fatigue on my end), and wished, as I did last summer, that I had gotten to see more of the 150+ improv and variety shows that happened during DCM10. At least two video cameras captured some of the highlights, which I expect to see online one of these days at UCBComedy.
The Marathon is crazy for improvisers and comedy fans alike, with shows running almost continuously (save for a couple of breaks to clean the theaters) at the UCB home in Chelsea and three nearby theaters from Friday afternoon to Sunday night. Comedians come from all over the country to participate, and even then, to fill all of those hours, the Marathon's programmers schedule some completely off-the-wall shows. I cannot speak for the daytime shows from last weekend, but during the primetime and late-night hours, the atmosphere -- hot, sweaty and reeking of alcoholic sweat -- really favors the louder, crazier uptempo shows over the improv groups that actually try best to honor Del Close and his Harold long-form. It's not a fault of the performers. But after you've seen "Gary Busey" prove he's the smartest expert in the universe, it's hard to pay close attention to all that's going on in the Scramble. And the Marathon peaks at 2:30 a.m. Sunday during the half-hour lunacy that is Match Game 76, and when Horatio Sanz as Heath Ledger's Joker launches a smoke bomb, well, even a troupe hoping to parody Close has no chance. I spent my entire DCM10 at the UCB (sorry, big-time shows at the FIT, but maybe we'll meet again in 2009), and the best shows I saw over the weekend were strong in concept, structure and execution.
James Adomian as "Gary Busey" during The Smartest Panel of Experts in the Universe Ever.
Photo by Keith Huang