A comedy fan named Danielle who goes by schwaggology on Tumblr was up late the other night watching the first season of the Upright Citizens Brigade's Comedy Central series from way back in 1998 when something caught her eye.
Sitting alongside UCB members Amy Poehler and Matt Besser were mostly college-aged fresh-faced kids (just as you'd see in many UCB show audiences today in NYC or Hollywood). But in the third episode of season one, "Saigon Suicide Squad," check out a few faces in particular. As Danielle points out with arrows, you can see what Paul Scheer, Rob Corddry, Nick Kroll and Rob Riggle looked like many years before they were TV famous themselves.
I wanted to find out more about how this episode could attract so much future talent, so I asked Paul Scheer how he got this very early TV credit. Scheer told The Comic's Comic:
"As far as Saigon -- I was in every episode of UCB season 1 sometimes twice an episode (as an extra -- I think I eventually got one line). They used all their students as extras, none of us got paid but they had great snacks. Saigon was a taping of their amazing stage show, so that was an easy one but that was a super fun night up in Harlem.
I think Nick was a freshman in Georgetown. I was still in NYU. But if you watch the 1st season everyone is there. It's fun looking back."
This photo also works as a great advertisement for taking classes at the UCB's Theatres: From students to stars!
The second season finale from Adult Swim's Childrens' Hospital is finally online for your viewing pleasure. They said it was "live," but if you paid close attention, you would have seen that even though it wasn't a traditional live TV show, the episode did spend its final nine of 11 minutes in a single-camera live shot. So that's something to behold.
Also, all of the surprises that come with playing with the convention of live TV, and that one guy who shows up. It's all great. I endorse it, and look forward to the next season of Childrens' Hospital.
If you want to see The Sultan's Finger LIVE, click here. These are the individual clips:
It keeps going...
At the Just For Laughs Chicago festival last week, Rob Corddry showed up with his fellow Childrens' Hospital producers David Wain and Jonathan Stern and co-stars Erinn Hayes and Lake Bell to offer a sneak peek at three episodes of the series that's making the jump from online to TV later this summer on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.
It contains the same ridiculous and often outrageous sensibilities as the web series did, with turns from Rob Huebel, Megan Mullally, Henry Winkler, Malin Akerman, Ken Marino and a wide array of guest stars.
Alas, the Childrens' Hospital screening and Q&A took place last Thursday night at the same time as Team Coco was taping a TBS special at a sold-out theater downtown, Aziz Ansari had packed another theater, The Second City's Class of 1979 was putting on a charity reunion performance, and, oh, the NBA's biggest teams, Lakers-Celtics, was down to Game Seven. That still should have left a million Chicagoans to show up at Park West, right? Not quite. There were plenty of empty seats at Park West, which prompted Corddry and his colleagues to start their show on an odd foot, and it just got darker and weirder from there. Before I go on, this is what Corddry had to say to me after the show, in which he explained how Adult Swim is a perfect TV home for Childrens' Hospital and you can tell by his tone how he was feeling.
OK. So, yeah. There were a few more than 15 people there, but the size of the room made it feel much more awkward -- well, that, and the decision by the cast to turn the planned audience Q&A into a two-way roast between the cast and the audience.
One actual Q that got an actual A from Corddry: Why the clown-faced makeup? "I hate clowns. I think clowns think that they're funny, but nobody takes themselves more seriously than clowns."
We did get to see three new 11-minute episodes, including "Joke Overload," which guest stars Jeffrey Ross as himself, Clark Duke as a Trekkie and Adam Scott as a Klingon doctor, and Ernie Hudson as a patient; "You Know No One Can Hear You, Right?" with Ed Begley Jr. and Rachael Harris as a couple that wants to abort their teen-aged son; and "Hot Enough For You?" filmed in a noirish tone. And with Henry Winkler on board with the cast as the hospital administrator, the cast decided to serenade Winkler onstage -- well, a fake Winkler -- by singing the theme to Happy Days with Wain accompanying on guitar. You know what? I do have the last lines of this on video, so why not share it, even if it's not the whole song:
And here's a clip of Corddry in character comparing his show to other medical shows on the TV:
Childrens Hospital begins airing July 11 on Adult Swim with the webisodes playing two at a time for five weeks, with a week off of the schedule along the way before the second season debuts on Aug. 22.
The ShoWest comedy star of the year, Zach Galifianakis, has a new movie that has its world premiere tonight, in North Carolina, and you've likely heard very little to nothing about it. What gives? ActionFest, that's what. The weekend tribute to action movies kicked off last night in Asheville, N.C., and boasts an appearance by Chuck Norris to complement screenings of his classic movies and a panel discussion on his stunts.
Action movies certainly include a certain amount of intentional and unintentional comedy.
But tonight's world premiere of Operation: Endgame jumps out as a comedy-driven action flick. Formerly called Rogue's Gallery, the film was picked up a couple of months ago for distribution by Anchor Bay and renamed Operation: Endgame. Along with Galifianakis, the movie also co-stars Rob Corrdry, Bob Odenkirk, Adam Scott, Ellen Barkin, Ving Rhames, Emilie de Ravin, Jeffrey Tambor and Brandon T. Jackson. It's set to be released wider this fall. As the ActionFest people note in their description: It's "just a giant ball of fun on the big screen, and we're hoping the word of mouth catches on about it so we can say we helped put it on the map."
You could argue that since Galifianakis maintains a farm in North Carolina, it makes perfect sense for the state to host the premiere.
But why haven't we seen anything about it yet? What's wrong with you, Internet? You can find the other ActionFest films and schedule here. There's not even any footage from Operation: Endgame in the ActionFest trailer. Argh. But if you want to see some action clips mashed up, here you go:
Is the Internet the new new path to a TV sitcom, or the new spin on an old path, or something else entirely? The answer isn't the same for all comedians, because some of the performers already have the credits and knowhow to get it done. Cases in point? We have three, which is what old-school mainstream media people call a trend!
1) Rob Corddry starred in an online comedy series Childrens' Hospital, which got picked up by the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim along with an additional order for 12 new 11-minute episodes. (Variety) Of course, Corddry is a former Daily Show correspondent and has multiple TV/movie credits to boot -- plus he had a strong supporting cast of known comedians along for his ride, and the initial backing of Warner Bros. theWB.com -- and that network has rewarded his success with an order for another Web series, along with a pilot presentation.
2) Comedy Central is halfway through airing the first six episodes of Secret Girlfriend, a sitcom that originated via FremantleMedia's AtomicWedgieTV.com. The TV show uses a first-person format to make the viewer the "star" along with friends (played by Derek Miller and Michael Blaiklock) and his two secret girlfriends (Alexis Krause and Sara E.R. Fletcher).
3) And then there's Funny or Die. Rachel Sklar at Mediaite wrote a column this morning praising FoD for getting eyeballs not just for Will Ferrell videos but plenty of up-and-coming comedians, citing traffic numbers that put Funny or Die on par with or better than Gawker, the NYC-based gossip news site. It's been a little while since I looked at their traffic in-depth, but last I had checked, FoD was still being driven largely by its celebrity cameos -- which in turn, get mainstream TV and news attention to help bring more people to the site. But. BUT. FoD also is doing a bang-up job of creating a team of talented comedians (much like the Upright Citizens Brigade, which has trained plenty of the FoD mainstays) and has gotten its non-celeb videos some traction in TV spots such as The Jay Leno Show (which could use all the help it can get) and must-lists in places such as Entertainment Weekly. Moreover, several comedians already have filmed sketches and half-hour pieces for FoD that should air sometime in 2010 on HBO per the cable network's agreement with FoD.
Of course, not everything works. In The Motherhood began online in 2007 with Leah Remini, Jenny McCarthy and Chelsea Handler, before it got picked up by ABC, completely recast and aired as a midseason TV sitcom in 2009. Alas, it didn't make it through its first seven episodes before getting the boot.
The Webby Awards have announced their 2009 nominees in as many categories as they can get people to pay $295 to get considered for honors, so for what that's worth, here are the comedy-related nods:
In Television: The Flight of the Conchords Lip Dub contest
In the Online Film & Video categories (links to videos included): Stickman Exodus (Atom.com) and 23/6's Get Your War On compete in animation; Rob Corddry (Childrens' Hospital) goes up against Sara Benincasa (Sarah Palin vlogs) and Lil' O'Reilly (Spike Feresten's talk show) in best individual performance; The Onion News Network vies with Funny or Die's Prop 8 musical number for best writing; Awkward Rap (CollegeHumor), episode four of Childrens' Hospital, "New Portable Sewing Machine Lets Sweatshop Employees Work On The Go" (Onion News Network), Paris Hilton responding to John McCain, and Prop 8: The Musical are up for best individual episode; Childrens' Hospital goes up against NBC's The Office, Comedy Central's online The Weekly Evils, Today Now (Onion News Network) and You Suck At Photoshop (My Damn Channel) for best series; The Onion also magically got considered for the actual news category for its election coverage; the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon crew got a nod in the variety category; and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is up for the mashup category.
Congrats to all of the above. In addition, you can login to access a ballot to vote for "People's Choice" winners in five of the overall categories.
Some quick hits and links of comedians and comedy making news around the Internets...
In Rob Corddry's interview with Defamer today, Corddry announces that he has sold a sitcom to HBO about an unlikely political candidate, and that the show, once pitched in a Bush world, has adapted to the new Obama Nation reality. Corddry: "At first it was a really cynical story about how we’re told growing up how anybody can become president. And the last eight years that’s been proven to pretty much be more terrifying than it is inspiring. So that was sort of our tagline before we even had a show: “Anybody can become President. Anyone.” But now we are burdened—burdened!—by hope and optimism. So the character has changed into one who feels the weight of other people’s hope, and is just a little too hungover to deal with it on most occasions."
The second Detroit International Comedy Festival continues to seek submissions for 2009 performers. You have until Dec. 31 to get considered for the March 16-21 fest, which shall include: Best of Detroit, Best of the Midwest, Best of the East Coast, Best of the West Coast and International showcases, plus a national headliner for the weekend at Mark Ridley's Comedy Castle. Note: There is a $25 fee, which you'd include with your DVD, bio, and headshot to Aspen Talent, 11385 Shaffer Road, Davisburg MI, 48350. Questions? firstname.lastname@example.org
If you're looking for even more reasons to attend Mike Birbiglia's winning Off-Broadway production, Sleepwalk with Me, then try catching a new weekly post-show segment called "An Awkward Ten Minutes With Mike" in which a special guest shares a "previously untold uncomfortable story" to fit with the theme of Birbiglia's one-man show. Birbiglia's celebrity producer, Nathan Lane, chatted it up last week. This Thursday, it's Zach Galifianakis, and on Dec. 17, radio host Ira Glass sits in for a quick story. And if ticket prices are a concern, and you're young and broke, consider asking for one of a limited amount of 50% discounted tix ($25) at the box office an hour before showtime, and be prepared to show student ID or proof of your poverty.
Hunter Stephenson over at /film went down to North Carolina to visit the set of the upcoming HBO comedy, East Bound and Down, which stars Danny McBride and is brought to the cable network by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell. McBride plays a former big league pitcher who's not as big as he used to be, and he tells Stephenson: "When we wrote this, we really just wanted to do our take on a weird American epic modern hero. He has all the qualities that an epic hero should, but they’re only the worst qualities. It’s completely ass backwards. He’s sort of the current state of the modern American hero."
Speaking of Will Ferrell, the Funny or Die guy is doing a special promotion for the site's newsletter, because if you sign up to get the FOD emails, you may win a personalized voicemail message recorded by Ferrell (this sounds like something NPR does already, doesn't it?).
The Dec. 8, 2008, issue of The New Yorker features a review of 30 Rock, the TV show. The sitcom is in its third season. Third. I'm waiting for next week's critical review of Seinfeld, and whether they think that star surrounded himself with better talent, and whether that's going to work out for him.
Rob Corddry's master online opus, Childrens' Hospital, debuted Monday on The WB's site, and within the first 30 seconds of the first of 10 episodes, you realize this is nowhere near safe for viewing at work. You'll also quickly see that it's ridiculous. And you'll want to watch all 10 episodes in a row. Lake Bell provides the narration. Look for Nick Kroll as a patient in episode four, a "very special" episode six directed by Cutter Spindell (aka Corddry). The hospital staff includes Rob's younger brother, Nate Corddry, Rob Huebel, Erinn Hayes, Ken Marino, Ed Helms, Megan Mullally, Jason Sudeikis, Seth Morris and more. David Wain is listed as an executive producer. This is much sillier than Wainy Days, though, so you really should be watching this already and asking when we can see more! Behold, the healing power of laughter...
Only a few days before Childrens' Hospital, the new madcap online series spoof from Rob Corddry, debuts on theWB.com (all 10 episodes go online Monday, Dec. 8), so Corddry has opened up the floor for some general hospital questions.
Yes, LA Weekly? Go ahead.
What can you tell me about your character?
I play Dr. Blake Downs. I actually play Cutter Spindel, the actor who plays Dr. Blake Downs. In one episode, my character, Cutter Spindel, acts, writes and directs a very special episode of Children's Hospital. He is a clown doctor. Episode Five is sort of his origin story. In this world, clowns are not unlike gays, a still marginalized faction of society who have to create their communities and really try to be who they are, which are clowns. This guy finds his way to a hospital and had, I imagine, a very successful early career, using only the healing power of laughter to save lives, but now he sort of lost his way, i.e., turned into a huge dick. There are rumors of a spinoff with my character, Dr. Blake Downs, M.D.
CollegeHumor, did you have a question? Alrighty then...
This show has a bunch of well-known people in it. Were they all looking for something like this or did you just start calling your famous friends until you had a full cast?
[laughing] Yeah, everybody was totally clamoring to get on a Rob Corddry internet vehicle. No, exactly that. I called my friends-- not so much my famous friends as much as my funniest friends, you know what I mean?
Rob Corddry, Rob Huebel, Lake Bell, Megan Mullally, Erinn Hayes, Jason Sudeikis, David Wain, Seth Morris, Ken Marino, "the other" Corddry and more...narrated by Stephen Colbert! Intoning things such as "The Internet's sexiest drama just got...sexiester." We cannot wait to see what happens next on the new series, Childrens' Hospital. But, wait. It's only online. What's up, WB? Or should I say, TheWB.com? Oh, look what you did there. You got me to help promote your beta site. You're welcome.
While we all wait with bated breath to hear if anyone new has made it onto the cast of Saturday Night Live, the folks over at The Daily Show have not been shy to pull the trigger on hiring new correspondents, and I have to hand it to them. After seeing some of their cast members leave to go on to starring TV and movie roles (Steve Carell, Rob Corddry, Ed Helms and Stephen Colbert), they've successfully hired some bold replacements. John Oliver has more than proven himself worthy of any assignment. Rob Riggle has made big splashes traveling abroad to Iraq and China. And their hire of Wyatt Cenac this summer already has provided some classic new Daily Show moments. This one is my early favorite, in which Cenac meets with elderly Florida Jews to talk about Obama. The dinner talk is priceless!
Since Cenac moved to New York for the show, I've also gotten to see him perform stand-up a few times in mainstream clubs and the smaller alt rooms. Sharp, edgy stuff about race. Here are a couple of clips of him in action onstage, courtesy of Effinfunny. Examples: Wyatt Cenac on how other n words are not the n word (NSFW, obvs); and on being single (also NSFW).
The early words are all good surrounding Mike Birbiglia's sitcom for CBS. L.A. Weekly's Nikki Finke reported last week that the network suits were "very happy with how reading went" and thought the pilot looked strong, though that they'd like change the name of the show from its initial title, Mike Birbiglia's Secret Public Journal. Audience members at the pilot taping also weighed in with positive reviews, saying that Birbiglia filmed intro to the scenes, which include funny turns from Bob Odenkirk playing his brother (renamed Don), as well as parts for Nick Kroll and Rob Corddry. Hooray on all fronts. Network upfront presentations are only a couple of weeks away, so stay tuned.
I got the chance to talk to Rob Corddry last weekend at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen. Nice guy. As funny offstage as he is onstage.
Corddry stars in the new FOX sitcom, The Winner, alongside fellow Boston-bred comedian Lenny Clarke (who plays his father). Corddry cited another local for his sense of humor, his Weymouth North High School friend Raye LaPlante. “He was my best friend in high school. Raye LaPlante is probably one of the funniest people I’ve ever met in my life and I continue to steal from him,” Corddry told me. “We did our first play together, ‘Bye Bye Birdie.’ My first. His first and last. He played Conrad Birdie. I played Albert Peterson.” That was 1989. These days, LaPlante lives in Rockland and is a regional vice president for CIBER, while both Corddry and his younger brother, Nate, are both on primetime TV. He said he remains optimistic about his brother’s show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. “They’re getting pummeled, but I think they’re going to be back because The Black Donnellys did so poorly, ironically,” Corddry said. “They’ll probably be back and hopefully they’ll catch their stride next season.”
Or a recap of other shows and stuff from Friday and Saturday at the 2007 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival
Colbert received his Person of the Year award from CNN's Jeff Greenfield, as they sat in front of a giant poster/mock magazine cover of Colbert as the Person of the Year with the subtitle: "Not you. Me." A good dig at Time. Also fitting for the Colbert character. He said this was his third time at the festival, but "this is the first time I've looked out at the front row and not seen everybody asleep!" I barely got in, and barely made it to the post-show press opp (my bad on both counts). Very funny and friendly guy. For those of you playing the home game, the Colbert Report writers come up with most of the “Word”s on Fridays, because it can take a while to write the backstory and explanation for each word. Some insightful comments on Bill O’Reilly and Barney Frank. Video tributes from his friends and colleagues. More to come on this in other forums that pay me. But the show was so packed, Colbert made time to give props to people stuck in the lobby.
Fat City Lounge
The title of this year’s late-night show at Aspen, where anyone and everyone can drop in for a few minutes of stage time. Friday night’s hosts Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter joked about the show’s musical theme and riffed on the Irish (hey!?). Charlyne Yi, who played an NBC page on a recent episode of 30 Rock, stepped up first with her guitar and rocked out to a song called "God knows I finished my whiskey." Hmmm. Sketch group Olde English followed with a sketch about the Fernberger family whose condo the troupers were staying at in Aspen, showing off the family's framed photos, posters, paintings, living room chair, track lighting and drapes. Apparently, the HBO folks weren't so happy about the sketch ending with the troupers simulating sex with said items. Either way, what made me enjoy it was not knowing whether the guys really did take these items from the condo or not. TastiSkank brought the funny with songs about "I heart dirty boys," "Hydrocodone," "Please manscape the area," "Oops, I f--ked you again" and "You're the worst sex I've ever had." Showalter had to take off to his other scheduled show, so Ian Black introduced a special guest, screenwriter Joe Eszterhas (as played by UCB's Seth Morris) who read his open letter to Hollywood. Tim Minchin closed the show. In the first 30 seconds, I wasn't sure what to make of this Aussie as he air-drummed, air-guitared and lip-synched. But as soon as he sat down to the piano, everything changed. He can play. He can sing. And he can tell some wickedly perverse jokes. Anyone who can write a peace anthem for the Middle East is good in my book, even if I'm going to keep on eating pigs. So glad I decided to catch this show.
After watching the pilot for this new FOX sitcom that debuted Sunday night (twas funny in an outrageous way, although upon watching it and the second episode Sunday, I've decided that it's entirely due to Rob Corddry and Lenny Clarke), Spike Feresten moderated a panel discussion with creator Ricky Blitt, star Corddry and Seth MacFarlane. "It's sort of a Wonder Years starting at 32," Blitt said. MacFarlane joked about drinking so early in the day: "I drink because I'm comfortable being the only white person in this town." Corddry downplayed all of the roles that are coming his way in movies. "Those nine films, they're all like don't-blink roles," he said.
Best of the Fest Awards ceremony
Hosted by Jamie Kennedy, with presentations also made by Judith Light and William Baldwin. Deciding to sit with Shane Mauss and a guy from SuperDeluxe front row center turned out to be a wise decision, especially when Mauss won an award as the best stand-up of the fest (along with Kirk Fox, who got off one of the funniest ad-libs by saying, "William Baldwin's complaining he didn't win an award? He already won an award. He's not Daniel."). For his part, Baldwin kept cracking jokes, perhaps to let us know that he, like older brother Alec, is ready and willing to do sitcom work! At one point, though, Baldwin stopped to look out into the crowd and saw the fro of Eric Andre. Paraphrasing here, Baldwin shouted to Andre: "You were on fire last night. Do you remember? You crashed the party, holding a sled over your head as you shouted, 'Let's rub boners!'" Um. Yeah. I was there. I remember. But most people in the audience were merely weirded out. Afterward, the guys from Super Deluxe took Mauss, myself and Ben Kronberg out to dinner at La Cantina. Fun, quick Mexican meal, and then Mauss and I raced back to the Belly Up for his final showcase.
Group B: Andy Borowitz hosted this standing-room only stand-up showcase. Erik Charles Nielsen went first, and seemed less intense than the first night I'd seen him, mixing up his material a bit. But the audience wasn't quite ready for him, and his decision to back into an unlit corner of the stage during his closer didn't help, either. Alexandra McHale has some funny nutritional advice, but I had to make a note in my notepad to alert Gary Gulman that someone else is coming for his cookie jokes! Na'im Lynn must really have a problem around the holidays, though he seems nice enough. TJ Miller has so many characters in his act, I feel like I'm watching an audition for SNL. To which Dan Boulger asked, "What's wrong with that?" John Ramsey has so many sharp, solid, clever jokes that he must be introduced to Myq Kaplan to see if they'll either become fast friends or mortal enemies. A poop joke as Russian history? Seriously? Seriously funny. Shane Mauss, fresh off his festival win, got to close the show and was funnier than I'd ever seen him. He threw in some old jokes and some rare jokes. And he had the audience at his bidding.
The parties: The Sierra Mist Lounge in the St. Regis provided a fun and comfortable environment to kick back after the shows each night during the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, although it seemed better on its slower nights (Wednesday and Saturday) than on Thursday and Friday, when it got so packed you could barely move. Met some nice comics (Nick Swardson) and even some nice lawyers (Jeff B. Cohen, aka lawyer to the comics, aka Chunk!). A ping pong table and foosball. Dan Boulger thought he had a brush with Cheryl Hines. Only problem was that the parties ended too early, as the lights came up at about 1:45 each morning. Which invariably led to the afterparties.
The UCB "house" was where it was at each night. Seth Morris and the rest of the guys couldn't have been nicer. The basement hopped. Anyone and everyone would show up (see my earlier post about William Baldwin's party reference during the awards ceremony). And our small band of comedians and merrymakers bonded throughout the week, making for a four-day party. Only problem was that we'd have to shepherd each other back up the icy mountain to the condo.
The so-called "mansion," on the other hand, ugh. Took a lot of effort to get there, by car and by foot. And once there, it really was too large and anonymous to have any fun there. As we remarked to each other afterward, we could've had much more fun at the UCB place. Or even at our place.
Docucomedy or mockumentary?
Either way, Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story is an amusing look at the people who play paintball -- and Rob Corddry is at the center of it all as the movie's comeback kid. The film starts a weeklong run at Cambridge's Brattle Theatre.
Corddry, 35, said filming Blackballed was a nice change of pace, mostly because it was a lot less work than filing his fake news dispatches for Comedy Central's The Daily Show. Corddry and the film's cast, which included several members from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre plus stand-up DJ Hazard, improvised all of the dialogue.
"I knew I had my work cut out for me," Hazard said. "This is what they do, even between takes. You think they're offering you a sandwich, and then 30 seconds later, they're on some tangent. They're two astronauts getting ready to land on Mars!"
Does that describe paintball? "It's sort of this cross between alternative and X sports and boys with guns playing war," Corddry said. "It's like skateboarding meets Civil War re-enactment." It's nothing like actual war. "You don't even hold a gun the same way. There's no Pulp Fiction aspect to it."
Ultimately, Blackballed is a redemption story. How does it compare with other comeback sports movies? "Are there other redemption stories? I thought we were the first one. Can you name one?" Corddry asked me.
How about Rocky 6? "Do you mean the upcoming one? Or the one with the robot?" Corddry countered.
Just then, business calls. "I just made my intern get dry cleaning. My ego has just reached a new level. Print that he did it humility," Corddry said. That might not be the case soon. "I will say that I just shot a pilot with Lenny Clarke. If that pilot goes, I will soon be having Lenny Clarke get my dry cleaning."