If you're watching AMC's Breaking Bad, or just catching up to this Emmy-winning drama, then you're well-aware of Bob Odenkirk's rascally role as attorney Saul Goodman. In season four (which premiered last night), Saul has hired himself a bodyguard, Huell, who is played by none other than stand-up comedian Lavell Crawford.
Here's a clip of their first scenes together in Breaking Bad. Not spoilery!
Crawford has been a touring stand-up for years, and finished runner-up to Jon Reep in the 2007 season of NBC's Last Comic Standing. He has a new comedy CD out this month called Can A Brother Get Some Love?, which also will debut on Comedy Central on Aug. 12, 2011.
It's always interesting to see popular comedians cast in TV dramas. Enough stand-ups have done the trick on Law & Order that you could host a full night's show and then some with them.
But how many comedians have made the successful transition from stand-up stage to small screen drama, particularly when it's a critical and commercial TV hit?
Let's take a look back...
Word on the street has it that CBS has ordered How to Be a Gentleman to series as one of its new sitcoms for Fall 2011.
The comedy from creator David Hornsby stars Hornsby as a magazine writer who has to learn about life with the help of his high-school buddy, a personal trainer and other assorted characters in his world. Its co-stars include Dave Foley (Kids in the Hall, NewsRadio), Mary Lynn Rajskub (The Larry Sanders Show, 24) and Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords).
So far, we've also learned that the Eye Network has ordered Two Broke Girls (from co-creator Whitney Cummings, starring Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs), canceled Shit My Dad Says and midseason's Mad Love, and plans to reboot Two and a Half Men this fall with Ashton Kutcher, following the firing of Charlie Sheen.
More to come later this week when CBS holds its upfront presentation for the media and advertisers.
The Bentzen Ball opened its inaugural comedy festival in our nation's capital last night, and The Comic's Comic was there for what seemed like a flash (because I was only there for about as many hours as I actually spent on the bus back and forth between NYC and DC from yesterday afternoon to this morning). But there I was in the shadows alongside Kyle Kinane, enjoying Rory Scovel's "country bumpkin" act during the Patton Oswalt and Friends show that served as the ball's opening gala at DC's Lincoln Theatre. Did I say country bumpkin? Yes, I did.
I'm fairly sure few people in the audience knew what kind of a show they were getting from Scovel, who joked about needing to smoke pot to enjoy this summer's rash of 3D animated movies, about fulfilling the WWJD motto, and at one point, telling the audience: "This is like Christmas, but I'm eating it!" Oswalt may have been the big draw for opening night -- and certainly did his part closing with a 50-minute set that touched upon routines from his latest CD/DVD, as well as a few memories about his start in stand-up in D.C. clubs, plus a rant about the Christmas song, "Christmas Shoes." He also encouraged the crowd to check out many of the not-so "famous" comedians performing at this weekend's fest. Not that they had to go very far, for they got treated to sets from Kinane (he received prolonged spontaneous applause after his performance, which closed with an adventure in a Chicago public bathroom -- so no need for him to be consoled by one of the festival's organizers, Andy Wood, afterward (as pictured!)), Ian Edwards (who provoked them into rethinking their attitudes on race and sex, and even made them gasp during his closer), and sets by the more famous acts of Todd Barry and Mary Lynn Rasjkub, and host/curator Tig Notaro. For a full set of photos from last night, check out Dakota Fine's full collection courtesy of fest organizer Brightest Young Things.
I also checked out the late show at the Bohemian Caverns, which has a basement set up to look like a cave. Nice touch? Maybe, but the stage lighting was a bit off, and the upstairs had turned into a dance club, factors that made it tough for many of the performers Thursday night -- although Seth Herzog and Morgan Murphy both seemed to get the crowd's attention in a good way. The local comedians, meanwhile, were showcasing over at HR 57, and there was an open mic advertised at Ben's Chili Bowl, which I don't remember seeing when Barry, Herzog, Reggie Watts and I went over there to sample the local institution's Chili Half-Smoke (online, the menu says it's named after Bill Cosby!).
Oh, did I mention that the Question Mark Suit Guy (informercial guy Matthew Lesko) was there, opening the festivities with a horrible comedy sketch that he and DC Councilman Jim Graham planned out? You can see that and more in this short highlight reel I put together from my brief sojourn to DC:
When the D.C. Comedy Festival decided it wasn't returning in 2009, the folks at Brightest Young Things -- who know a thing or two about throwing a party -- asked comedian Tig Notaro -- who knows a thing or two about funny people -- to help them fill the comedy void in our nation's capital. They're putting on the inaugural Bentzen Ball this weekend, Oct. 22-25, in Washington, D.C.
I sat down at my computer and typed out some questions, and Tig Notaro took whatever position she takes when she types on a computer (I'm going to imagine she's straddling this motorcycle), and the power of the Internets brought our fingers and thoughts together for an interview. Ready, set, read!
Do you think D.C. needs comedy more and/or differently from other parts of the country?
I can't imagine any place where someone would say, "Nope, no more comedy needed here folks, thanks though. Move it along." I guess DC strikes me as even more prime of an area though due to the increased interest in the city itself and politics in general since Obama took office. Comedians obviously have something to say, and DC is the perfect city to speak their minds in, regardless of the topic. Who isn't up for a debate in that town? Politics, comedy or otherwise.
How would you compare putting together the Bentzen Ball with your previous installments of Tig Notaro and Friends?
Tig and Friends never takes place in DC or with 60 comedians. It's just me and maybe 3 comedian friends at Largo in LA. There's no rounding up sponsorship, never thousands of dollars on the line, you know, that sort of thing. A few slight differences. Spreadsheets and whatnot.
How did you feel about being spotlighted by Bob Read and Mark Ross online in their very first "Laugh Squad" post online for The Jay Leno Show? Is that better than being on The Jay Leno Show itself? Do you feel like Bob and Mark could have/should have given you more of a showcase via Last Comic Standing? What's your philosophy toward achieving true success as a comedian, and knowing when you've achieved it?
I appreciated that Bob and Ross spotlighted me on the website the night of Leno's premiere. I imagine it was nice exposure to some extent. The morning after though, my life changed like crazy. I immediately started riding around in a stretch Hummer with all the windows rolled down. I think its important to keep up appearances. As for Last Comic Standing, I'm more than fine with the exposure they gave me. I never wanted anything more from the show than what I got. I didn't want to win or be solely known as "from Last Comic Standing." When people do know me from that, I'm always shocked. I was at a hot dog stand in Santa Barbara once with Natasha Leggero (I'll explain later) and got recognized from the show. It was a very glamorous time. In that moment, Natasha got a glimpse into how good things could be one day. I think Natasha was pretty impressed. Just as I imagine the guy that recognized me from Last Comic Standing was quite impressed to find me at that hot dog stand. I think that's when I knew I had achieved true success as a comedian. It felt like everything had finally come full circle. I'm not going to lie, it felt pretty darn good to have that guy see me step into my Hummer and drive off from that Santa Barbara hot dog stand.
We're about to see a bunch of new live stand-up comedy on our basic cable TV sets thanks to Comedy Central. The fourth season of Live at Gotham debuts this weekend, and in the first week of November, 24 stand-ups get to tape their very own half-hour Comedy Central Presents specials to air in early 2010. In between those two things, the network has given the go-ahead to John Oliver to present his very own stand-up showcase. If John Oliver & Friends sounds like something as fun and magical as the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival, well, then you can pretty well guess the lineup. It's going to be good.
There will be three tapings (Oct. 23-25) at NYU's Skirball Center, which will produce six half-hours of stand-up comedy, featuring Oliver and his friends. A few names appear multiple times, which is curious and suggests the format could spin a bit. We'll just have to wait and see, won't we!
SHOW 1 ~ Friday - Oct. 23 - 6:45 p.m., with Marc Maron, Janeane Garofalo, Maria Bamford, Hannibal Buress, Wyatt Cenac and Pete Holmes
SHOW 2 ~ Saturday - Oct. 24 - 7:45 p.m., with Paul F. Tompkins, Maria Bamford, Greg Fitzsimmons, Nick Kroll and Eugene Mirman
SHOW 3 ~ Sunday - Oct. 25 - 5:45 p.m., with Brian Posehn, Kristen Schaal, Wyatt Cenac, Greg Fitzsimmons, Eugene Mirman, Pete Holmes and Mary Lynn Rajskub
If you're going to be in NYC and are at least 18 years old, go to The Black List's John Oliver page and follow the instructions to request tickets.
Mary Lynn Rajskub hinted on her Twitter last week that she'd be organizing an all-star comedy show involving her cast members from the past two seasons and upcoming edition of 24, and sure enough, it's going to happen this Thursday, Aug. 27, at The Laugh Factory in Hollywood. Tickets for the 8 p.m. show Thursday are $20-$30 via Ticketweb. Rajskub has both the most experience on 24, as Jack Bauer's best helper Chloe O'Brien, and also as an accomplished stand-up comedian and comedy actress. The rest of the lineup is still being assembled, but as of this afternoon, Rajskub announced on Twitter that the following actors would be participating: From Day 8, newcomers Katee Sackhoff (expect some cylon jokes?!) and John Boyd; plus former faves such as Glenn Morshower (Secret Service Agent Aaron Pierce!), Roger Cross (Curtis Manning!); Jean Smart (former First Lady Martha Logan), Marisol Nichols (CTU's Nadia) and more.
The Laugh Factory, meanwhile, hinted to me that Rajskub might be taking over Thursdays on a more permanent basis at the Hollywood club. We'll just have to stay tuned to find out. Beep. BEEP. Beep. BEEP. Beep. BEEP.
If Eugene Mirman could pull off his own comedy festival, then what would he have in store for the release of his first book, The Will to Whatevs? We had to take the first B75 or F train we could get to the Bell House in Gowanus Brooklyn to find out last night for ourselves (why do I refer to myself in the first-person plural? not relevant). A sold-out crowd watched what turned out to be two hours of comedy and a full set by GnR tribute band Mr. Brownstone, and before you ask, why Mr. Brownstone, note that Eugene's brother joined them on guitar for "Knocking on Heaven's Door," with Eugene and David Cross taking over one of the microphones, and Todd Barry and Cross' girlfriend Amber Tamblyn joining them all onstage.
Of course, it wasn't all rock and roll. After all of that, Sarah Vowell took over the turntable with a more leisurely mix of tunes.
But first, Mirman welcomed the crowd with a multimedia presentation about his new book (related: read my interview with Mirman about The Will to Whatevs). John Hodgman took the stage and immediately apologized for being sick with the cold/flu bug that has circled New York City. Although that's not how Hodgman caught it, as he claimed instead: "I got sick hugging Al Gore last week at the TED conference." If that wasn't odd enough for you, Hodgman talked a bit more about the personalities who show up to talk hot topics at TED each year, and revealed that he once tried stand-up comedy at one of Mirman's shows. "Eugene was nice enought to let me come up and insult his profession, and now he has insulted mine," he said. And now that they're competitors in the book world, Hodgman decided to plug his own book and read from it.
The trip to Aspen literally is paying off. My first blog post for Entertainment Weekly went live about an hour ago. My alternate subject header for it: Chloe & Rush? Keep dreaming. It's about Mary Lynn Rajskub, silly, whom you already know I saw perform last night.
Anyhow. Read my EW.com blog posting here.
More to come later.
In which the author attempts, despite repeated crashes of his laptop computer, to briefly describe the shows he saw Thursday at the 2007 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival.
Summer of Tears
Southern California sketch troupe mixed it up with videos. One took political TV ads and made the candidates potential boyfriends. Another looked at a botched submission for “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” And a third crudely wondered what really happened during Johnny Cash’s final recording sessions. Lots of sexual material. The troupe made use of one member’s uncanny Matthew McConaughey to good effect, but as my friend suggested, they might’ve wanted to put that sketch last. Later sketches only reminded us how much the guy sounds like him. Odd. Still funny.
Pete & Brian’s One Man Show
Pete is Peter Karinen. Brian is Brian Sacca. Together, they’re funny in a comfortably awkward way. Wait. Let me rephrase that. They’re comfortable in their awkwardness. Which makes their “one-man show” work. Their opening and closing sequences are simple yet creative. Much like their use of T-shirts to identify the various characters in their show.
“The General” with The Alloy Orchestra
A classic silent film by one of the great physical comedians, Buster Keaton, set to live music by Cambridge’s own Alloy Orchestra. Yes, the guy delivering the intro may have said that the orchestra has been in residence at the Telluride Film Festival for 15 years, but Roger, Terry and Ken are based in Cambridge, Mass. If you haven’t yet seen this movie, you must. It’s brilliant. Keaton is full of wonderful ideas and is a master of execution in delivering the funny without saying a word. And if you see this movie, I suggest you see it with the Alloy Orchestra. Their score is on the money. Hearing it live makes you forget you’re watching a “silent” movie. I only wish more people filled the seats at the Wheeler Opera House for it.
Michael Showalter, Mary Lynn Rajskub, John Oliver
Showalter’s 15-minute set includes much I’d seen before, including his musical selections of songs he’s no longer guilty of loving. It goes over much better in the clubs than in Aspen, mostly because the crowd here is, well, not quite as hip. They do seem to know the show “24,” though, as Rajskub poked fun at her alternate reality as Chloe. Oliver deserved to go last. His set showed he could tap into the local oddities that make up both Aspen and the festival, and he swiftly put a heckler in her place. “I’m guessing you’re not in comedy,” he said. “You smack of privileged local.”
Wright showed a more animated and feisty side last night than I’d seen in a while. He tried to deny it later, but bits such as his “Indian midget” joke or his routine about having a son certainly don’t sound or feel like the Steven Wright most people remember. Regardless, the audience lapped up Wright’s hourlong set. For good reason. He began with material familiar to those who’ve seen “When the Leaves Blow Away,” his 2006 Comedy Central special. But midway through, Wright started opening up. No, really. He’d bounce around the stage. He’d laugh. He’d throw his hands in the air. He’d look to the wings. As my friend and fellow Boston comic Shane Mauss noted during the set, “He looks like he’s having more fun.” Good for him and us both.
Host Eddie Pence brought an oddly low-key vibe to this midnight show. The audience brought an even odder vibe. A woman off to the side routinely shouted out, not quite heckling in a traditional sense, but still bothersome. Lisa deLarios went up first, and fared well despite her slot in the order. Taking what might be a typical relationship joke and shifting it to her dog was funny. Her bit about shopping at thrift stores -- “A onesie for grownups?” -- was very funny. Next up, Dan Mintz. Mintz seemingly stared into space while telling jokes he certainly didn’t tell during his appearance on “Premium Blend.” Young Chris Fleming (we go with a title of young when the performer isn’t old enough to drink in Aspen) had a slightly difficult time connecting with this audience, and it showed. Better luck next time. Michael Kosta: Air high fives. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing. But it works for him. Ian Bagg had no trouble at all connecting with the audience, and finally brought some energy to this show. “My career’s going nowhere after this,” Bagg said. Let’s hope that’s not the case.