Hey, remember three years ago when Pete Karinen and Brian Sacca, aka Pete & Brian, debuted a nine-minute short casting themselves as magazine fact checkers who paid Bill Murray a visit, and then talked to me about it?
In September 2007, Pete told me the idea was to break out the FCU guys as a series, "whether that's a Web series or a TV series. We're also looking into developing it for commercial uses." They've done that now with the debut of the first of eight Webisodes of FCU for NBC.com. The FCU site is live and will post the premiere tomorrow. Kristen Schaal returns as one of their co-workers at the magazine, Dictum. The first episode, "Paranormal Factivity," has the guys visiting with Luke Perry to find out if his house really is haunted.
New episodes will appear on Tuesdays. The rest of the cast includes Jim Connor, Zach Steel, Sara Simmonds, Lillie Sakren, and cameos as themselves by Luke Perry, Donald Faison, Karolina Kurkova, Jon Heder, Dave Navarro, Zach Gilford, Pauley Perrette and Alex Trebek.
Just checking my feeds from some of my other favorite comedy sites (look on the left column here, and you'll see the most recent postings from Comedy Central Insider, Dead-Frog, The Apiary, The Baston and Shecky Magazine, as they're updated) and saw a couple of new and funny videos posted on CCInsider, thought I'd take a look-see at what else is new and online.
First up, Olde English proves that sometimes it's better not to overthink a situation:
After the jump, we've got videos from Pete & Brian, Funny or Die featuring Nick Swardson and David Spade, and Harry Shearer revealing the Katie Couric you don't see. Click and enjoy!
Now that I've had a chance to rest and gather my thoughts, a few things still left to be said about The Comedy Festival in Las Vegas.
For one thing, I'm still not really sure what Ellen DeGeneres was trying to accomplish with "Ellen's Really Big Show" at Caesars Palace. They say you shouldn't critique a TV taping, because it all looks much better once it's edited for broadcast, but really...this show was a really big dud. DeGeneres had talked up this special as an attempt to rejuvenate the variety show. Only the variety show doesn't need rejuvenating. Her guests included jugglers, acrobats, and the quick-change artists who had already made a splash on America's Got Talent. And that show isn't going anywhere, considering its relatively high TV ratings and the ongoing Writers Guild strike. DeGeneres also included a nod to Ed Sullivan. But isn't David Letterman doing something similar with his odd assortment of guests with their stupid human tricks every night (when not on strike)?
Frank Caliendo impresses you much more in person doing stand-up than on his fledgling TV show, which only makes me question Barry Katz (his show's executive producer) that much more.
One thing you often hear about The Comedy Festival is how it's built for headlining acts and not for showcasing up-and-coming talent. But I saw plenty of industry people and tourists checking out the so-called smaller shows such as "Unprotected Sketch!" and Broadband Theatre. And any chance for Kurt Braunohler, Kristen Schaal and Reggie Watts to perform before new audiences is a good thing. The Broadband show, which included performances by Pete & Brian, the folks from Blerds.com, Chelsea Peretti, GarageComedy.com -- featuring the talents of Brody Stevens (whom I still fondly remember from his days in Seattle when Jews and Samoans would take over the world, or at least your cable access TV), and a new Funny or Die video (see below).
Another fun festival fact: Comedy industry lounges attract all sorts, and in Vegas, they bring out the other comedians performing on the Strip, including Carrot Top (cover of that week's Las Vegas Weekly) and George Wallace (performing across the street from Caesars), plus other comedians who may or may not have coincidentally scheduled gigs in Vegas that weekend. Oh, really? There are agents and casting directors in town? Who knew?
Jon Stewart and Katt Williams were down the Strip for the opening of Planet Hollywood Resort, but didn't make it over to Caesars.
And finally, kudos also should go to the HBO comedy festival staff, who managed to maintain solid morale under difficult working circumstances -- whomever thought it'd be a great idea to announce that HBO would be streamlining its comedy operations before the festival?! I wholly sympathize with their situation, particularly since the festival represented a turning point in my own career as well. Good luck to us all. May we meet again under happier conditions.
Today on Funny Or Die, NYC comedy duo Pete & Brian unveiled their latest short film, FCU: Fact Checkers Unit with Bill Murray. Let's play the clip, then talk with Pete and Brian about it.
Directed by Dan Beers. Written by Dan Beers, Peter Karinen and Brian Sacca
OK, boys. Explain yourselves.
Pete: "The three of us wanted to work together in some capacity so we decided to make a short together. Brian had the idea to make a CSI spoof...I think it was Brian's idea originally to do something about fact-checkers."
How did they rope Murray into it? Dan Beers had worked on "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" with him. "We faxed Bill a question asking if he wanted to be in it," Beers said. Apparently, that's how you get in touch with Bill Murray. As he added, "Bill doesn't have an agent or a manager or a publicist, which makes it difficult to get a hold of him." Wow.
Of all the comedy video sites out there, why Funny Or Die?
Pete said they've hosted Pete & Brian shorts in the past.
Brian: "One of the great things about Funny Or Die, because it's a selective site, the content is...good quality. The stuff there is generally pretty funny. And we respect what they post."
Bill Murray wasn't originally part of the concept, though.
Brian: "It was literally while we were writing it...Dan said wouldn't it be funny if we got bill murray in this..."
Pete: "Brian and I started nodding our heads vigorously...No, he was not part of the original concept at all."
Brian: "It was about Pete and I being fact checkers. Fact checkers taking their jobs way too seriously."
At nine minutes, it's awful long for an online comedy video. But they said it's more of a short film -- or even a pilot. Pete said the idea is to break out the FCU guys as a series, "whether that's a Web series or a TV series. We're also looking into developing it for commercial uses."
But no film festivals or comedy festivals, Pete said. "I don't think the short exactly has Sundance written all over it. And Brian and I had a different short that went to festivals already...from what I gather, the business has really changed a lot. When studios are going to film festivals, they're not going to the shorts programs and they're not making deals off of shorts...It is an experiment to deal with viewers' attention spans...We’re not calling this a viral video. We’re calling this a short film that we’re debuting online. We think the production value is a lot better than a lot of these videos...We didn't just pick up a camera and make funny faces."
Related: As far as I can tell, here are the lyrics to Bill Murray’s Chopsticks song..."Chopsticks I used when I got 'em at the takeout store when I went out for chop suey, They were chopsticks I used, they’re the chopsticks I chose to choose all my chopsuey, Chinese style! Chopsticks....that I chose to chew at the..."
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.