I was looking for footage of Mo'Nique's acceptance speech from last night's Academy Awards, since it's more than a little bit notable when a stand-up comedian wins an Oscar (as Alec Baldwin joked to his co-host, Steve Martin). In her many speeches and appearances this awards season, Mo'Nique has talked about how personal of a project Precious was for her. And she did so again last night with Barbara Walters.
But I also found this. Some of you remember that Mo'Nique went to an Ohio womens' prison a few years ago for a stand-up special, I Coulda Been Your Cellmate. It's all on Hulu. Note: In addition to normal Hulu restrictions, since the special is rated R, you need to sign in to view it. She was making bidet jokes years before SNL. Check it.
She also produced a documentary interviewing some of the prisoners, called Behind Bars. The first two inmates Mo'Nique meets both were victims, indirectly and directly, of sexual abuse. This is on Hulu, also.
And here is a clip of Mo'Nique from Precious talking about letting her daughter, spoiler alert city, fall victim of the same crime.
Back before they were famous for being the Upright Citizens Brigade, the UCB players produced their first feature-length film that spoofed both Spring Break and Girls Gone Wild. Naturally, it's called Wild Girls Gone, and it's only now available for your digital download pleasure via iTunes.
That seemed so random, but then again, this isn't the only random comedy news for today.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association tends to be a bit particular about its tastes, and by lumping the comedy and musical people together, it's usually a chance for them to tell us how much they like singing more than laughing. That was sorta the case at this year's Golden Globes (Glee beat out 30 Rock for best TV comedy/musical), but not for The Hangover, which took home the top comedy/musical movie prize.
Here's director Todd Phillips with his acceptance speech (not pictured: Zach Galifianakis).
Earlier, Mo'Nique won for her dramatic turn in Precious and delivered a passionate speech. She looks to be a certain Academy Award nominee, if not also its winner.
And most everyone was looking forward to Ricky Gervais hosting, not only because the Globes had not had an official host in about 15 years, but mostly because Gervais had delivered so many quips and zingers in the past year or two when he was presenting awards. How'd he do? In the opening, he went after Steve Carell (again). He didn't appear enough, but did keep the proceedings on time. And he did get in this viciously great jab in introducing Mel Gibson. Roll the clip!
The Mo'Nique Show is a daytime talk-show masquerading as a late-night party. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.
While George Lopez is whipping up hysteria over on TBS with his new late-night talk-show party atmosphere, and Wanda Sykes looks to shake things up on Saturday night on FOX with her frank stand-up and panel discussions, it's easy to overlook what Mo'Nique is doing on BET. Part of that is because the mainstream media tends as a rule to overlook BET; but some of it is because the cable network isn't giving the mainstream a reason not to.
Mo'Nique's show opened a month ago with Steve Harvey and 1.5 million viewers. On cable. On BET. If The Daily Show with Jon Stewart got those kinds of numbers on Comedy Central, newspapers and magazines across the country would talk about how influential that is. Oh, wait. Snappity snap snap. Seems as though we've learned that there's another audience out there for late-night television.
What they get, as I mentioned earlier, could just as easily be shown at 3 p.m. or 11 a.m. as it is at 11 p.m. The backdrop signals it's supposed to be at night, and the show opens with Mo'Nique dancing down the stairs along with the band and the audience, and comedian sidekick Rodney Perry with his own chair over to the side. Mo'Nique doesn't open with a traditional late-night monologue, but rather a short moral lesson peppered with some sort of physical interaction that elicits laughter. When it comes down to it, though, whether it's a talk segment, a musical number or even a cooking demonstration with Coolio, the atmosphere isn't so much about late-night hijinx than it is about conversations. Think more like Oprah, with a dash of Ellen. But that duo dominates daytime. And really, having Mo'Nique on in the afternoon isn't what audiences need -- a need she fills by bringing more black entertainment (and more often than not, black empowerment) to Black Entertainment Television. That's a smart move by the network. Taping Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in Atlanta, the show also manages to have a different sensibility that comes from being far away from New York City and Los Angeles, as well as the headlines of the day. What The Mo'Nique Show is saying is we'll give you what you're looking for. Heck. Here's what Mo'Nique had to say herself:
You're used to seeing Mo'nique be large and in charge, whether it's delivering jokes on a comedy stage or by serving as a role model to women in her three seasons of F.A.T. Chance pageants on Oxygen. You're not that accustomed to seeing Mo'Nique take a dark dramatic turn, and the audiences and critics at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival loved her for it. She took home a special jury prize tonight for acting for her role as a monster of a mother in Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire (the film also took home both the grand jury prize in dramatic competition as well as the audience award among U.S. dramas). Here she joins the director and cast mates to talk about it:
The Sundance Film Festival has announced its slate of films for the 2009 celebration of cinema in Park City, Utah, and more than a few feature and/or star stand-up comedians during the Jan. 15-25 run in the ski hills.
There's one bonafide film about comedy screening next month: Why We Laugh: Black Comedians on Black Comedy / USA (Director: Robert Townsend)—Using rare archival clips along with provocative interviews with many of today's leading comedians and social critics, Why We Laugh celebrates the incredible cultural influence and social impact black comedy has wielded over the past 400 years. Cast: Chris Rock, Bill Cosby, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Steve Harvey, Dick Gregory. World Premiere
And I'm pleased as punch to pass along the news that NYC comedy troupe Derrick got their film into the festival: Mystery Team / USA (Director: Dan Eckman; Screenwriters: Dominic Dierkes, Donald Glover, and DC Pierson)—A group of kid detectives called The Mystery Team struggle to solve a double murder to prove they can be real detectives before they graduate from high school. Cast: Dominic Dierkes, D.C. Pierson, Donald Glover, Aubrey Plaza, Glenn Kalison. World Premiere
Among the 16 films selected for the Documentary Competition:
Good Hair (Director: Jeff Stilson) - Comedian Jeff Stilson directs Chris Rock while he sets out to examine the culture of African-American hair and hairstyles. World Premiere
Among the 16 films selected for the Drama Competition:
Big Fan (Director and Screenwriter: Robert Siegel) - The world of a parking garage attendant who happens to be the New York Giants' biggest fan is turned upside down after an altercation with his favorite player. Cast: Patton Oswalt, Michael Rapaport, Kevin Corrigan, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Matt Servitto. World Premiere
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (Director and Screenwriter: John Krasinski) - This effort from The Office star is described thusly: When her boyfriend leaves with little explanation, a doctoral candidate in anthropology tries to remedy her heartache by interviewing men about their behavior. Cast: Julianne Nicholson, John Krasinski, Timothy Hutton, Dominic Cooper, Christopher Meloni, Bobby Cannavale. World Premiere
Paper Heart (Director: Nicholas Jasenovec; Screenwriters: Nicholas Jasenovec and Charlyne Yi) - This is the is it a documentary, is it fiction movie you've heard buzz about in the past week: Even though performer Charlyne Yi doesn't believe in love, she bravely embarks on a quest to discover its true nature - a journey that takes on surprising urgency when she meets unlikely fellow traveler, actor Michael Cera. Cast: Charlyne Yi, Michael Cera, Jake Johnson. World Premiere
Push (Director and Screenwriter: Lee Daniels) - Based on the acclaimed, best-selling novel by Sapphire, Push is the redemptive story of Precious Jones, a young girl in Harlem struggling to overcome tremendous obstacles and discover her own voice. Cast: Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe, Paula Patton, Mo’Nique Imes, Lenny Kravitz, Mariah Carey. World Premiere
And in films debuting at Sundance 2009 outside of competition...
Late into the night, or early this morning, after seeing parts of three different comedy specials on Showtime, I couldn't help but think about how Showtime's comedy specials all have a uniquely odd look and feel to them. Especially when compared to the consistent theater sets and production values of one-hour comedy specials that get aired on HBO and Comedy Central.
Why is that? For one thing, HBO tends to control its own comedy output, which means its comedians often tape their hourlong sets at the same venue with the same crews. Comedy Central does the same for its half-hour Comedy Central Presents, and for hour specials, they're most likely edited versions of highly stylized and produced DVDs. But Showtime is another matter. Whether it's Joe Rogan (at the Tempe Improv), Paul Mooney (at the Laugh Factory) or Mo'Nique at an Ohio prison (or even Doug Stanhope at Gotham Comedy Club), these specials will go anywhere. They'll feature lots of close-ups. They'll bounce the camera angles around the room. They're as OK filming in a small club as they are outdoors. They're independent. They're rogue, even. Performance art pieces. I get the sense that many of these specials were made by the artists themselves, then later sold to Showtime.
But does that make one network's comedy specials better than the others? Depends upon what you mean by better, I suppose. Comedy being so subjective, you cannot say one form of televised special is funnier than another -- that's left in the hands of the performer and the gutteral reactions of you as a viewer and listener.
Do you think, however, that one network does a better job of showcasing stand-up comedy and comedians as artists? Does one network offer more in the way of helping further a comedian's career? Is that answer different now than it would've been even a year ago (looking at you HBO)?
I'm curious to hear your thoughts on it.