My friends over at Caroline's have been unearthing some old clips from their 1990s series on A&E, Caroline's Comedy Hour, and the treasure chest already includes footage of Dave Chappelle, Margaret Cho and Lewis Black at a younger age. Remember when comedy boomed before and busted? Remember when audience members still dressed up to be on TV, too?
Before you see any of the people I mentioned in the headline, here's something to make your head spin. It's the opening to a 1990 episode, hosted by Colin Quinn, and featuring his writing staff: Jon Stewart, Susie Essman, Dave Attell and Louis CK. Yeah. So here's that!
Here is Dave Chappelle talking about the time his brother talked him into experiencing the inside of a drying machine.
If you're missing Margaret Cho since she left Dancing with the Stars, just think about how she felt about being on TV back in 1992. Much different time. So fewer tattoos. Roll it!
In a departure from past years, Montreal's Just For Laughs actually is getting two major State of the Industry dressing-downs from comedians. That's because Lewis Black just delivered a blistering critique of the comedy industry, and particularly TV network executives, in his keynote address today to officially kick off JFL's Comedy Conference.
Black opened with a bit of misdirect, claiming he was the wrong person for the gig, not only because he thought "it should be someone who knows what the fuck a keynote address is," but also because in giving a speech versus stand-up in front of the industry that has screwed him over for four decades, "I'm just too tired to give a shit" about using his opportunity to gain retribution against said industry." He disproved that theory, however, within seconds and held court for the following forty or so minutes.
Black first took issue with the fact that the comedians need to seek the approval of industry people who "haven't worked on sketches or five minutes of stand-up." When he tagged that by saying, "even better, they know how to fail up the ladder," he paused. "The lack of a laugh there fails and disturbs me. You've got to be shitting me....how does a room, half of whom are comdeians, miss the goddamn joke?!?"
Black cited one TV project rejected "because it was too funny for their network. How can something be too funny? Is that even possible? Can it be so funny that it depresses you?"
Another time: "I once did a pilot where I was playing myself in a reality show. It got rejected because I wasn't yelling enough. Not yelling enough. Who did they want, Hitler!?!?"
He also recounted the story he has told before -- and written about in his best-selling memoirs -- of when he auditioned for a sitcom part written specifically for him, with dialogue largely taken from his act, and rehearsing for it by pretending to be him, and yet CBS cast someone else to be him. "Unbeknownst to me, there was a better me out there." It happened to him again in this pilot season, this time with NBC, in a show David Kelley developed and wrote with Black in the lead role. It's Kindreds. "I tend to trust the creative teams. They're the ones who actually do the work." Black noted that the very fact that Kelley, who has had several critical and popular TV hits (including Black's mother's favorite show, Boston Legal), was the kind of outrageously good fortune that he figures is the kind of news that one pays an agent to feed you as a ego-puffing lie. But Black noted that Jay Leno's failure at 10 p.m. meant NBC was looking for shows. ""How is it possible that Jeffrey Zucker still has a job??? People say the Illuminati doesn't exist...it can be the only explanation for why this man still has that job." Black has reason to distrust Zucker, because NBC refused to give Kelley the clout and respect he deserved, and forced Black to audition for his part. Black cracked that Kelley should have just entered a network office and "club them like baby seals," then figured that baby seals would do a better job of programming than network programmers. "Whatever they arfed at would make it on the air." That led to Black acknowledging that only Animal Channel has been smart enough to give Andy Kindler -- the stand-up who for years (and again tomorrow) has been coveted by the industry to deliver the State of the Industry in Montreal -- a show on the air. In the end, Black said he missed out on his NBC drama, in part because he tried to negotiate a salary he thought he deserved. "I was the center of that script. The script wouldn't exist without me. So we negotiated, and say, even if they gave me what I wanted, I wouldn't have gotten the part, because they wanted a star. So this midseason, Kathy Bates (applause, laughs). Yeah. She'll be playing me. I always knew I had a feminine side."
Maybe all of those ads in Aruba for Aruba have convinced Lewis Black that he's ready to take his comedy to the Caribbean. Well, at least for a week. On a boat. With some of his funny stand-up comedian friends: John Pinette, Susie Essman, Dom Irrera, Kathleen Madigan, John Bowman, Larry Wilmore and Ted Alexandro.
Because that's what's happening this November. It's Lew's Cruise? Yes. Lew's Cruise. As Black himself explains on the site:
"Because this show just can't happen on dry land. A cruise offers the possibility of a week of unlimited fun. And we can all go a little crazy and just walk back to our rooms. It provided me the opportunity to spend time with my good friends, who also happen to be some of the funniest people I know. And its a week of non-stop comedy and all sorts of chances for you guys to see where the funny comes from with q and a's and all sorts of other surprises that will be revealed shortly on this site.
"Don't whine to me if you miss this once in a lifetime opportunity. A vacation. And constant live entertainment. You can rock climb on this boat, why I don't know but you can. You can surf on this boat. Don't ask it wasn't my idea. So join us you pricks, who knows, it may even make me smile."
Other activities include a screening of My Favorite Year and Q&A with Mark Linn Baker, Madigan calling BINGO games, Irrera holding forth on his "Comedy Court," improv lessons with Joe Grifasi, and the other activities and excursions you can normally expect on a cruise.
It'll all take place on Royal Carribean's Liberty of the Seas, seven nights, leaving Miami on Nov. 7, 2010, and heading to Costa Maya, Mexico; Belize City, Belize; Cozumel, Mexico; and George Town, Grand Cayman. Prices for the cruise start at $1,459, not including transportation to Miami.
Speaking of EPIX, the cable channel's first original comedy effort will bring Lewis Black's latest stand-up special, Stark Raving Black, to screens big and small in October. The 80-minute feature was shot over two shows from Black's performances on Aug. 2 in Detroit. It'll initially screen in 16 states in the U.S. starting Oct. 8. Here's a trailer. It contains profanities. Roll it!
If you really want some more in-depth discussions with Black about his career and what he's up to, then we have that and more. After the jump, I've got almost an hour of Black talking with CBS News' Bob Schieffer in July as part of the Aspen Ideas Festival. Schieffer wanted to know how Black thought about the death of Michael Jackson, Twitter, Bush and Obama, and many questions about religion, due to Black's book, Me of Little Faith...
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:
John Cleese was forced to postpone his scheduled all-British comedy "Gala" last night at Montreal's Just For Laughs festival after being diagnosed with an inflamed prostate gland. Bruce Hills, COO for Just For Laughs, took center stage shortly after the scheduled 7 p.m. Eastern start time for the grand theatrical (and televised) production, telling fans: "John Cleese has fallen ill." Hills told the crowd that a late cancellation was so rare, "this has never happened before" in the more than quarter-century history of the citywide comedy fest.
After last night's Gala, which went on with Lewis Black substituting as host, fans who had spent upward of $175 per ticket to see the Monty Python legend were given cards like the one pictured here with instructions on how to exchange their ticket stubs for a pass to a new free Gala that was added to Sunday night's schedule. Hills said that Cleese had prepped his sketches and routines for this Montreal show for more than a week (in fact, Cleese had just hosted a similar gala last weekend in Toronto) and hoped to be fully able to perform them by Sunday.
Black, already in the French-Canadian city to host Thursday's Gala, also apologized, suggesting that perhaps, "What I would do is hire a French comic to speak entirely in French and use the entire time to talk about why the French hate the British." When that didn't get as much of roar as he had hoped, Lewis added: "But I'm a substitute!" Later in the show, he observed: "I'm still a little surprised that they went from John Cleese to a miserable aging Jewish prick!"
A moment later, a voice near the front of the theater called out: "So were we!"
For his part, British comedian Ross Noble, amid 10 or so minutes of nonstop riffing and meandering about the stage -- offered his own improvised tribute to Cleese by imagining he had "died" and become part of his very own version of Python's famous "Dead Parrot" sketch, with someone at the hospital arguing, "He's not dead. He's just resting."
The folks in Montreal have begun rolling out some news and information about its 2009 Just For Laughs comedy festival, and this is what we know already: Bill Cosby will headline, as will Irishman Tommy Tiernan; Canadian native Russell Peters will celebrate his 20th year in stand-up comedy with a special show; John Cleese and Lewis Black will host Galas (filmed-for-TV showcases); Bobby Slayton will host The Nasty Show, and there will be a second annual ladies version of it. You can now go back to whatever you were doing.
For the 51st annual Grammy Awards, the Recording Academy went with a live, primetime announcement/mini-concert. But you want to know who got nominated, don't you? While putting American Idol's star judge Simon Cowell up for Record of the Year (he produced "Bleeding Love" for Leona Lewis along with Clive Davis and Ryan "Alias" Tedder) certainly contains some comedic value because you wonder if he'll show up in a tight black V-neck or a tight black tuxedo, we do have some other actual comedy honors to share with you as well. Although there are some truly outrageous and ridiculous nominations among the dozens of categories, too (but that's for me to analyze in another forum).
Best Comedy Album nominees from 2007-2008
Lewis Black, "Anticipation"
Flight of the Conchords, "Flight of the Conchords"
Kathy Griffin, "For Your Consideration"
George Carlin, "It's Bad For Ya"
Harry Shearer, "Songs of the Bushmen"
Didn't Flight of the Conchords win last year for their EP, which is just a shorter version of this album? If you want to get all technical about it, then, yes. So cross them off the list. And do not be surprised for a posthumous honor to go to Carlin.
In Best Spoken Word Album, Steve Martin's "Born Standing Up" goes up against Stephen Colbert's "I Am America (And So Are You)" and David Sedaris ("When You Are Engulfed in Flames")! Also in this category: Sidney Poitier ("Life Beyond Measure") and the trio of Beau Bridges, Cynthia Nixon and Blair Underwood (reading Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth"). As much as Colbert has been the man of the moment for the past two years, Martin really should get this, wouldn't you agree?
Freestyle Love Supreme can celebrate some more, as Lin-Man and King Sherman's "In The Heights" soundtrack is up for Best Muscial Show Album (against Gypsy, The Little Mermaid, South Pacific and Young Frankenstein).
John C. Reilly singing "Walk Hard" got nominated for Best Song Written for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media (also earning Judd Apatow a nomination as co-writer). They're up against John Mayer, Peter Gabriel, Carrie Underwood, and Amy Adams.
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)
How much are you anticipating Lewis Black's new CD, Anticipation? His CD, recorded last September in Wisconsin for Comedy Central Records, comes out on Tuesday, Aug. 5. You could pre-order a copy via Amazon.com, you could do it in one click via this handy button...
...or you could win yourself a free copy today! How? Oh, my, do I know how, and I'm a gonna tell you how, right now. First, you read this CD description:
Back from his Grammy Award win for best Comedy Album 2006 on his previous album ("The Carnegie Hall Performance"), "Anticipation" finds Lewis Black in a mellower mood. Having found that after a decade or two of leaving audiences alternately rolling the aisles with his vicious and perfectly-aimed political onslaughts, Black has decided that his fans need a sunnier topic or two. On the new CD, Black does lament the fact that the only appropriate candidate for the highest office in this land is the universally loved Santa Claus. Black spends the bulk of his time in kinder, gentler territory, while still keeping up his trademark frenetic pace and subtle, masterful call-backs. Virginity, golf, Las Vegas and the ever-popular Chanukah are some of the topics that come in for the truth-revealing rants that only Black can do.
Then you look at this!
If you have made it this far, congratulations, you're almost there. See what I'm doing with this whole anticipation bit? Black does something similar himself in the opening track, talking about the expectations the audience already has placed in him. Because of the recent passing of George Carlin and all of the replaying of classic Carlin bits, I could not help but think of his short but sweet look at anticipating a moment back in the 1970s, and also about Carlin's take on golf when Black examines the subject later on this CD. Carlin mocked the sport, whereas Black gets all riled up about how and why we play this sport that only makes us boil up in as much anger that we identify with Black's onstage rage. There is a large 21-minute chunk devoted to Christmas and Chanukah, and I wonder if, now that Americans have settled upon Obama and McCain as the major presidential options, he still wants us to vote for Santa this November.
But all of this time, you've been wondering how you're going to get a free CD. Alrighty then. Here's what you do. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, type "SANTA in 2008?" in the subject line and tell me whether Santa could beat Obama for president this year. The three (3) emails I like the best win a CD! See how easy that was?
After the jump, a video in which Lewis Black answers questions from Comedy Central viewers. Language, obviously NSFW.
Comedy Central's Root of All Evil starts its second season tonight, with host Lewis Black and a rotating duo of comedian prosecutors arguing that (blank) is, in fact, the root of all evil. Tonight's show features Andy Daly and Patton Oswalt debating whether ultimate fighting or blogging is more eviler. Here's a trailer:
Book Expo America proves how reading is fun-damental once again this weekend in Los Angeles, and funny people Lewis Black and John Hodgman are helping demonstrate that with live appearances. Black performs Saturday night, while Hodgman presides over an author breakfast on Sunday. They're part of a fresh wave of reading material for us all to enjoy. Chelsea Handler has been riding high on the bestselling charts all month with her latest series of essays, while the surviving brothers of Chris Farley have an insightful (albeit sometimes naturally hyperbolic) look at his career. Why don't you pick up a book and start reading?
The new season of Unmasked, XM satellite radio's comedy interview program, debuts Saturday with an entertaining and enlightening retrospective on Lewis Black's career. Host Ron Bennington recorded the interview with Black and a live studio audience last month at Comix in NYC, and if you miss it Saturday, XM will replay it several times in the coming week.
A few things I learned from the 90-minute interview that might perk your ears:
On achieving success in middle-age, Black says, "I wish it had happened a little earlier, at least when I didn't need a nap to enjoy it." He says his big break came at age 40 at Montreal's Just For Laughs festival. But he really knew his career had turned the corner one weekend playing Stanford's comedy club in Kansas City, when, during a blizzard, he worried that they'd cancel the shows, only to find a line of fans waiting outside in the snowstorm to see him.
Did you know Lewis Black was in attendance on the Mall in Washington D.C. to see and hear the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech?
Producing plays at the West Bank Cafe in Hell's Village helped Black get comfortable onstage.
He's still unhappy for getting passed over years ago to do "Weekend Update" on Saturday Night Live, after Kevin Nealon left the anchor desk. "That to this day pisses me off," he says.
Black predicts a much better second season for his new Comedy Central talker, Root of All Evil, when it airs in July. "I feel like if we do 8-10 more shows, we'll have it," he says. "You can never judge anything on television from the first show."
Related: Lewis Black is on tour live this month, and then again in August. Find and buy tickets here!
Tickets go on sale at noon today for the two New York City dates at Town Hall for Flight of the Conchords, so I thought I'd look and see what other comedy tours are hot sellers.
Flight of the Conchords at Town Hall (NYC) May 6-7. Get tickets!
Lewis Black has a new Comedy Central tour "Let Them Eat Cake" beginning May 1. Get tickets!
Kids in the Hall already on tour, coming to NYC's Nokia Theatre at Times Square April 18-20. Get tickets!
Chris Rock's "No Apologies" tour hits Madison Square Garden's WaMu Theater from April 30-May 4. Get tickets!
Sorry for not spotting this video sooner (via Gothamist, Dead-Frog), but let's take a look at this, shall we? This movie trailer spoof promotes the Purim Party this coming Saturday, March 22, that'll help open the Tribeca branch of the 92nd Street Y, 92YTribeca at 200 Hudson St. Anya Garrett, normally seen behind the scenes as a comedy fan and photographer, takes the lead role in Jewno, but there's a small part from Matt McCarthy and the casting coup of them all, with JK Simmons playing the more Jewish version of his paternal role in Juno!
Info straight from the Purim Party page, where you can buy tickets, too: "The Shushan Channel is back for its sixth year. Created by Daily Show writer Rob Kutner and now in collaboration with writers from The Simpsons, Dennis Miller Live and more, The Shushan Channel is a comedic retelling of the story of Esther, as seen through the lens of current TV hits like Lost, American Idol and Ugly Betty. This year don't miss House-man, MD, DeadVood, Grogger of Love, To Catch a Jewhater and Imperial Gladiators, scripted by professional comedy writers and performed by hilarious comedians and actors, including The Daily Show's Aasif Mandvi. All this, plus a video monologue rant "The 5 Things I Hate About Purim" by everyone's favorite "pissed-off optimist"—Lewis Black!"
What I like about Lewis Black's new Comedy Central show, Root of All Evil: It takes the Tough Crowd formula, stand-up comedians talking smack about issues of the day, and refines it with tight focus without watering down the concept. These planned bits, the mock trial arguments, work better in a 22-minute TV format than the spontaneous conversations from Tough Crowd, which were hit and miss precisely because they relied so much on the ad-lib chatter. We want the highlights. And when you give great social commentating comedic minds such as Greg Giraldo and Paul F. Tompkins some advance notice, you're going to get highlights. Here's one:
In related news, Comedy Central unleashed a "Weekly Evil" segment online that gives several stand-up comedians a chance to weigh in on a topic (in the style made famous by VH1's Best Week Ever). This week's evil? St. Patrick's Day. (Psst: Can you find the typo?)
Lewis Black's new Comedy Central series, The Root of All Evil, debuts March 12. Here's a sneak peek at an episode in which Black presides over a debate between Oprah and the Catholic Church (series premise, in case you're not playing along, is which one of these things is the root of all evil) with Greg Giraldo and Paul F. Tompkins taking sides.
Comedy Central's annual "Stand-Up Showdown" airs today, rebroadcasting the top 20 stand-up specials as voted online by fans over the past month. It's airing now!
The full schedule/countdown...which began at 11:30 a.m. today...(with applicable taping season)
20) Loni Love (season 11)
19) Doug Benson (season 8)
18) Chelsea Handler (season 11)
17) Steve Byrne (season 10)
16) Maria Bamford (season 11)*
15) Rich Vos (season 7)*
14) Dane Cook (season 3)
13) Stephen Lynch (season 12)**
12) Mike Birbiglia (season 10)*
11) Demetri Martin (season 8)
10) Mitch Hedberg (season 1)
9) Jim Gaffigan (season 3)
8) Pablo Francisco (season 4)
7) Kyle Cease (season 10)
6) Mitch Fatel (season 11)
5) Lewis Black (season 6)*
4) Frank Caliendo (season 8)
3) Lisa Landry (season 11)
2) Josh Sneed (season 11)
1) Jeff Dunham (his Spark of Insanity hourlong special)
* These comedians have multiple half-hour CCPs. Rich Vos has one upcoming this season.
** Stephen Lynch is the only one from this current crop of CCPs to make the list. Which, of course, is unfair to the many comedians this season who also taped with Lynch but haven't gotten on the air yet. Then again, this whole "showdown" is essentially just a test to see which comedian wants to mobilize his or her fans to vote early and often for them to get an extra TV airing. Really, that's it. No big cash prize. No trophy. But it certainly got us paying attention to Comedy Central on a Sunday in January, right? Of course, if I were one of the comedians who made the top 20, I'd probably still feel pretty good about it (while also looking at the other comedians who got listed ahead of me and behind me and wondering where I stood, which is why you have to realize and remind yourself that this isn't a "showdown" at all).