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!
Were you on YouTube on Friday? You probably noticed Rob Riggle on there hosting a special two-hour live improv show with his colleagues from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater.
That was just the start of a five-day promotional stunt for HP's ePrint, which has allowed viewers to submit their sketch ideas via email and watch as UCB players create short videos for them.
Here's one about a comedian on the subway:
It reminds me of those filmmaking competitions in which performers run around a city creating shorts, only in this case, it's all happening in a studio and the YouTube viewers dish out the premises.
The UCB players are accepting and writing about 16 new sketches each day -- the promotion runs through Wednesday. Brandon Gulya said he and the other writers are working from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., with crew and actors on an earlier schedule, and editors working later into the nights. The performers are Jon Gabrus, Jon Gemberling, Fran Gellespie, Ben Rogers and Joe Wengert, with sketches written by Gulya, Anthony King, Dan Klein, Arthur Meyer, and Melinda Taub.
Each day has a different theme and setting, such as home, office and school. Today's theme is travel, while Wednesday's is "anything goes." If you want to send in a suggestion -- in the form of pictures, poems, single words or drawings, email firstname.lastname@example.org. If your submission gets picked, you'll receive a link to the personal video via email, and see it online at the HP ePrint Live YouTube channel and the HP for Home Facebook page.
Here are a couple of other videos from the ongoing promotion:
Two suggestions in one sketch:
And here's the full two-hour live show from Friday, hosted by Riggle!
When Adult Swim began airing episodes of Childrens' Hospital last month, they aired an ad for a different kind of action show called National Terrorism Strike Force: San Diego: Sport Utility Vehicle. It's an over-the-top spoof starring Paul Scheer, with contributions from Rob Riggle, June Diane Raphael and Brandon Johnson.
Funny enough, right? Well, now there's a second, longer clip for the show. But is it a show? Or just another funny trailer for something that we'll never actually see on television. Inquiring minds, join me in inquiring.
For the second year, Just For Laughs Montreal is putting several of its shows into an offshoot called Zoofest, and this time, they're opening acknowledging it as the "off the wall parallel" to JFL. In other words, for all of the unique, interesting and possibly amazing one-person shows by performers who aren't headlining Galas or otherwise big-ticket names to Canadians, why don't you try Zoofest? "1 show for $15, 2 shows for $20" Or get a Zoopass for $29.99 (do I need to tell you these are in Canadian dollars) It's all about marketing, really.
What comedy fans want to know is who's going to be there this July? Why don't I tell you!
Bill Burr, "You People Are All The Same," July 12-16 at Theatre Ste-Catherine
Bo Burnham, "Words Words Words," July 12-15, 17 at Theatre Ste-Catherine
Donald Glover, "Gross!", July 12-17 at Katacombes
Jamie Kilstein, "No God, No War, No Nickelback," July 14-15, 17, at Theatre Ste-Catherine
Jim Jefferies, "Alcoholocaust," July 12-17 at Katacombes
"Kim Noble Will Die," July 12-7, 20-24 at Theatre La Chappelle
Noel Fielding Live, July 12-17 at Savoy at Metropolis
Patrice Oneal, "Mr. P," July 13-17 at Katacombes
Phil Nichol, "A Deadpan Poet Sings Quiet Songs Quietly," July 12-17 at Katacombes
Tim Key, "The Slutcracker," July 14-17 at Savoy at Metropolis
Tom Wrigglesworth, "An Open Letter to Richard Branson," July 12-17 at Savoy at Metropolis
Related: Zoofest ticket info.
I'm very excited about the new HBO series collaborating with Funny or Die, who in turn is unleashing lots of great comedians to do their things on cable TV. Here are four new teaser trailers for sketches from the series Funny or Die Presents, which debuts at midnight Friday, Feb. 19.
The first features the latest installment of "Drunk History," which won an award at the Sundance Film Festival and cast Will Ferrell and Don Cheadle to re-enact the drunken ramblings of Jen Kirkman. She really does look drunk, you guys! Roll it.
And the second clip shows us a reunion of sorts, as Zach Galifianakis joins Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim in a bit called "Just 3 Boyz." Looks like someone really could use a horse massage?
But wait. There's more!
Here's a clip from the short film, "Designated Driver: Office Prank," that includes Rob Riggle, Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel.
And there's a fourth clip. This is called "Hold Up," starring Ed Helms, Thomas Lennon, Malin Akerman, Rachael Harris, Huebel again, and Creed from The Office acting like Creed from The Office. "C'mon. It's open season on jive turkey." Perfect? From what I gathered from Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer, this one is his handiwork, and also includes Jerry Minor, Brandon Johnson, Ian Roberts, Rich Fulcher and Kate Walsh. Roll it and see:
Hey, sports fans. Pete Carroll may be leaving the University of Southern California and Los Angeles behind to take a job coaching the Seattle Seahawks, but you don't have to go all crazy superfan on him to make him care about L.A. This guy cares.
Just watch Rob Riggle and Aubrey Plaza creep him out for the fun of it, then go and buy tickets to "A Better L.A.," the comedy benefit show Carroll is putting on with the help of Will Ferrell, Tenacious D, Demetri Martin, Tim and Eric, Riggle, Plaza, Nick Swardson and more. It happens Feb. 20 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.
That saying about things happening in threes has gotten a bit of an X-rated revamp over the weekend, as a threesome of images popped up on my Internets involving porn star actresses in mainstream comedies. To be sure, a few of the men and women who have had sex in pornographic films (or even simulated intercourse in softcore Skinemax flicks) already have managed to graduate and upgrade their careers to network, basic cable and Hollywood big studio movies. Traci Lords and Ron Jeremy come to mind first, so to speak. HBO's Entourage has cast a bevy of porn beauties in previous seasons. Boogie Nights was about the porn world of the late 1970s, and as such, included some adult stars, but that played it heavy (despite some comical scenes).
This is different. Starting with 2007's Superbad, and continuing with last year's Zack and Miri Make a Porno, we're seeing more broad comedies with roles for porn actresses. And now there's news of another new big-budget comedy movie about porn, this time starring Christina Ricci. It's called "Born to be a Star," with Adam Sandler as a co-writer, and Nick Swardson as a co-producer, about a small-town nerd from the Midwest who discovers his parents were 1970s porn stars and decides to go to Hollywood to get into the family business. But who will play the nerd? Swardson? Perhaps Ricci's fiance, and Swardson's buddy, Owen Benjamin?!?
I guess I should not be too surprised, considering how the pornography world often has turned to stand-up comedians to host their annual awards show in Vegas, and how often I saw the porn stars of Scottsdale (Jenna Jameson and her girls) enjoying live stand-up comedy at the Tempe Improv when I lived in Arizona.
But back to my trilogy of porn comedy news items. Jenna Haze, who had a cameo in Superbad, filmed a documentary DVD featurette with Aziz Ansari about his "Randy" character for the upcoming Judd Apatow film, Funny People. So there's that to look forward to.
The HBO/Funny or Die miniseries with Rob Riggle and Paul Scheer, Designated Driver, apparently includes a role for Angelina Armani.
And here is the first official movie trailer for How to Make Love to a Woman, which stars Krysten Ritter, Josh Meyers (MADtv, brother of SNL's Seth) and Ian Somerhalder, but also features comedians Kirk Fox, MADtv's Ike Barinholtz and Apatowite Ken Jeong, as well as porn queen Jenna Jameson.
Last summer, the Funny or Die team (Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Chris Henchy and Judd Apatow) received a big vote of confidence in the forms of capital investment and broadcasting agreements from HBO. They had just worked together on the production of Eastbound & Down -- and if you have not watched this surprisingly magnificent miniseries starring Danny McBride as washed-up pitcher Kenny Powers (the sixth and final episode aired this past Sunday), then you should find yourself a TV with HBO and watch it right this very moment and it will make your weekend that much more enjoyable. Anyhow. So, yes, of course, seeing how well that went, HBO agreed to invest in the FOD guys and commission 10 original half-hours of programming from them.
We're starting to see this come to fruition this week.
Paul Scheer (MTV's Human Giant) announced he'd begun production on "a MINI mini series" with Rob Riggle (Comedy Central's The Daily Show) called Designated Driver.
And fans of Brett Gelman will be heartily pleased to know that his catstravaganza, "1,000 Cats," will be filmed on Saturday afternoon for FOD/HBO. At The Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles. (Fun fact: The same stage to be used in May for NBC's America's Got Talent) As Gelman says in his Facebook event invite for the event: "Pleases come. And if you can, please come dressed in some sort of formal wear. For we will be getting some shots of you, and plus how else would you come dressed for 1000 Cats." How else, indeed. Seriously, though: Read my review of Brett Gelman's 1,000 Cats if you need further proof. So that's at least another of the 10 half-hours.
Sounds like the FOD guys already are living up to the promises they made back in June 2008 when they first announced the deal with HBO. Here's what Ferrell told Variety then: "We do know we want it to be in the same family of the comedy that we're doing on the website -- just a wide range of anything from a funny offbeat talkshow to a maybe more-traditional-type sitcom to a show with puppets," he said. "We don't want to limit ourselves in any way, which is what we love about the stuff that we do for Funny or Die. The spitballing on these ideas is going to be the fun part of all this." And this is what McKay said: "Our idea in going into Funny or Die was that it would be a kind of clubhouse for us and friends of ours who could come and try stuff that they couldn't do as easily in movies or TV. And it was also about us getting to find new talent." If this is how they're starting, then I cannot wait to see what else makes the slate of HBO/FOD programming to come in 2009-2010.
You knew that the correspondents from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart have lives and comedy careers outside of TV, right? Whether you knew it or not, you can see what some of these guys and gals are like when they're crafting their own jokes. Here are a few examples just today and this weekend...
John Oliver joins behind-the-scenes laugher staffers Rory Albanese, Adam Lowitt and others tonight at Comix in NYC. Aasif Mandvi, meanwhile, showcases and talks up a movie he wrote and stars in, 7 to the Palace, tonight at the 92YTribeca in NYC. And on Saturday, Albanese and Rob Riggle will join Oliver for a showcase at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas as part of The Comedy Festival.
Anyone who doubted whether TBS could or would pull together a full slate of A-level comedy talent for its first edition of The Comedy Festival in Las Vegas without HBO as a partner, well doubt no more. Over the weekend, TBS unveiled its first look at the official schedule for Nov. 20-22 at Caesars Palace, which includes Ellen DeGeneres, Jerry Seinfeld, Dane Cook, Katt Williams, Jim Breuer, Kids in the Hall, Russell Peters, Jim Norton, a roast of Cheech and Chong, David Alan Grier, Jeff Dunham, Laffapalooza hosted by Tracy Morgan, Andrew Dice Clay, Mike Epps, John Oliver, and Caliente Comedy with Gabriel Iglesias, Pablo Francisco and Anjelah Johnson. The network also says it'll have 25 up-and-coming stand-up and sketch acts performing in a separate LOL Lounge. Full sked after the jump!
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).
Rob Riggle went out in the field, way out to Iraq last year to file actual reports for The Daily Show, and now he has done it again. This time: China! His nightly reports, "Chasing the Dragon," begin airing Monday, Aug. 11. The Summer Olympics are there. You may have heard about it. If you're worried that this means Riggle will miss out on this weekend's Del Close Marathon of improv comedy in NYC, then fret not, for Riggle and his Comedy Central producer already have returned from China. Here is a photo from the trip:
While NBC openly battles with the WGA over late-night writing duties, Comedy Central has taken a slightly more subtle tack with A Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Although, of course, even while Stewart says he's simply reacting to the photos and videos that pop up onscreen, someone is writing for the show. And in the past couple of days, the correspondents have crept back into the picture. I can understand John Oliver's excuse. On Tuesday, he said he had to show up to keep his work visa valid else he'd get deported back to Britain. Last night, we saw correspondents Aasif Mandvi, Rob Riggle and Jason Jones, too. If they're truly improvising and showing up as actors, not writers, that's allowable, I suppose, though still tricky. There's also a full-fledged segment report from Oliver.
Examine for yourself...
At this summer's Del Close Marathon, Rob Riggle and the Daily Show/Colbert Report improv jam received the suggestion: Iraq. Someone joked that Riggle would be heading there soon. Riggle groaned. Little did we know Riggle was heading to Iraq. He got back late Saturday from a USO tour with fellow Del Close Marathoners, UCB players (and among other TV and film credits) Horatio Sanz, Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel. Riggle's reports for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart begin airing tonight.
Rob Riggle was in combat in Afghanistan after 9/11 as a Marine Corps major during Operation Enduring Freedom. He returned to another battlefield last week, but to make laughs, not war. Their USO tour was called Operation Feel the Heat. Riggle said: "Forward Operating Base McHenry it was 140 degrees. They might have just said that, though. They pushed the show back to 8 o'clock for it, I think it got back to 125 for that."
As a Marine Corps Major, did you give the other guys advice about how to perform for troops in combat?
"We as a group talked about some of the sketches, some of the bits you wanted to do, but as always, you play for your audience. They’re all professionals and they’re all savvy and they're all established improvisers. So I had total confidence in them...even if every sketch idea we had got thrown out, I knew we’d be able to come up with something."
How'd the shows go over with the troops?
"They watch the show, they watch Saturday Night Live. They watch Comedy Central. They watch VH1. They’re hip to popular culture. They’re young people. They’d quote lines to Horatio from Saturday Night Live that he’d been in. They’d quote lines to me from an episode of The Office I'd been in."
And here is a missive from Paul Scheer with his initial thoughts...
We made it back from our week in Iraq without incident and it was truly amazing. We met amazing soldiers, rode in Blackhawk helicopters, shot tanks, and watched DVD Bootlegs of Rush Hour 3, This place had everything. Big thanks to the USO, who really made this trip unbelievable. However, my plan of picture and video blogging was severely hindered by the fact that Iraq's infrastructure doesn't really support high speed DSL. Who knew?
Even with his military rank, Riggle said he didn't get better access in Iraq than embedded journalists. "I didn't go as a Marine in any shape or form," he told me. "I went as a comedian."
They planned some comedy sketches for their "Operation Feel the Heat" but were more than ready to improvise. "If there was some little bit, we tried to grab it," Riggle said. "We left a lot to chance."
Their tour took them from Kuwait to several makeshift bases in Iraq, at times within earshot of battles. "We were on a forward operating base that was really close to Kirkuk when that bomb went off last week," Riggle said.
They returned to New York over the weekend and began combing through the footage Sunday. "I feel confident that if the troops watch this themselves, they would laugh," he said. And he was "pleasantly surprised" by the morale among the troops, many of whom talked to Riggle and the other comedians late into the night after shows.
Will he get called back to rejoin them as a Marine? "I have no idea," Riggle said. "I truly don't know. I try not to think about it, to be honest. I suppose that's pretty naive."
What happens when you look over your handwritten notes a year later? Let's find out as we jog our memories on the 2007 Del Close Marathon, held over the last weekend in July...
Satellites: Oh, this was a fun way to start my Del Close Marathon in 2007, as Ed Helms, Rob Riggle and Jason Sudeikis got themselves all excited about going to another Dave Matthews Band concert. They got nostalgic (Riggle claimed this would be his 217th DMB concert experience), interacted with fans (as in, audience members) and Sudeikis proved his chops playing multiple parts in this half-hour improvised set, including a drug dealer in Detroit and a driver to a show in Miami.
Bro'in Out: With Leo Allen and Seth Morris co-hosting, and guests played by Matt Walsh, Ed Helms, and Matt Besser, among others, with Besser playing the role of MySpace's founder, Tom. "A lot of people don't want to be friends based on first impressions of their voice," said Besser as Tom, who continued to hold the MySpace Tom pose throughout the show. "I have a deformed spine that doesn't allow me to face forward."
Chuckle Sandwich: This Chicago-based quartet opened with a song, and showed why T.J. Miller would soon go on to bigger things. Micah Sherman also showed a bunch of energy at this midnight show.
The Smartest Panel of Experts in the Universe Ever: My notes on this are messy, and as I recall, this show was messy, too, and Horatio Sanz was in it. I wrote immediately after this that the UCB theater really cleared out afterward, which made things tough on the show that followed, the low-energy Bastards Inc. Directors Commentary LIVE came next and took on "Dirty Dancing," with players taking on roles as cast and crew from this 1980s movie, and the show completely lost control about halfway through as the players went to greater lengths to one-up each other in their risque comments.
I returned on Saturday afternoon in time to see I Eat Pandas earn a standing ovation at 5:30 p.m. My $20 wristband got me into most shows, but it'd take another $10 to get me a guaranteed seat over at the FIT for the Daily Show/Colbert Report Improv Jam (only about 20 people from the stand-by line got in) as Riggle, John Oliver, Ed Helms and several Colbert writers, including Laura Krafft, took audience suggestions. The first one? Iraq?! "I should probably jump into this one," Riggle said. "Because you're a Marine," another player said. "Everything about Iraq is hilarious," offered Helms. "That guy (pointing to the audience member) should be forced to do 10 minutes on Iraq right now." But they ran with the suggestion and got many laughs. They also played off of a military group that attended a Chicago improv show, and imagined a group of St. Olaf and Carleton College students facing off at the town's only bar.
Arrived back at the UCB to see the end of Ian Roberts' Lazy Man show, followed by the iO Chicago team of Washington Generals, who seemed to be led, at least on this night, by a guy I'd seen earlier in Chuckle Sandwich. According to Jim came next, and no, not about the ABC-TV sitcom with Jim Belushi, but rather Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, and Matt Walsh played Gary Sheffield, and I had to write how one woman in the audience remarked, "It's so ridiculous." Yes, and in improv, ridiculous is usually a good thing. They stopped the show seven minutes early for a Q&A with the audience which just got weirder. Pass the Mic was billed as improvised stand-up, and it seemed more like improvised monologues. As Leo Allen noted at one point, "For anyone onstage, your constant writing is horrible." The show turned out to be a bit of a misnomer, as each player told true and funny stories from his or her childhood, building off of the previous player's story. No one even used the actual audience suggestion of hurdles, by the way. BirdDog, from Chicago, seemed more style than substance, although they also seemed to adhere more to the style of Del Close in doing so, which made it apt. And they did make good use of the mic for a talent show. C,C,+C Improv Factory drew consistently big laughs with quick quips. Cracked Out (Jon Daly and Brett Gelman) got the place more than standing room only and laughing. "There's no booing in improv hip-hop!" Derrick smartly recognized the funny nature of quick flashbacks. Match Game 76 had so many "celebs" onstage, including Paul Scheer as the late Gene Rayburn, Jack McBrayer, Ed Helms (as Mark Spitz), and so many others, that it was hard for anyone to follow -- just sit back and watch the madness unfold. If you're going to follow Match Game, getting the audience's attention with Mexican wrestling masks and attitude might just have done the trick for Senor Bueno. Pajama Jammy Jam spun off from Houseparty with one of the guys from Derrick playing Play from Kid and Play. Oh, Hello, led by John Mulaney, played up the shtick of Upper West Siders trying improv. Drunken Sonic Assault, hosted by Walsh and Besser, hit two out of three targets in their name. A weird Thanksgiving dinner played out next onstage, with Jackie Clarke, Riggle, Rob Huebel, Viking brothers, ghosts and a guy with his balls out named Balls Larry. The program tells me this show was called 2 Gays and a Lez with a Baseball Cap. My Left Fuck You was four guys with laptops using voice software. At 4:15 a.m. on a Sunday. Scheer re-emerged as Darth Vader for Star Wars Bounty Hunter Prov. Things got too weird for words in the next two early morning shows, Nicolas Cage Match and Dane Cookin It Up, with several comedians impersonating the two actors. It's no wonder my notes ended here.