From the mind of Lizz Winstead, co-creator of The Daily Show, and her friends, comes this parody of America's first and only six-hour morning "news" show, Wake Up World. They had been doing this as a live show regularly in NYC since 2007 under the umbrella title of Shoot The Messenger. As a television pilot, however, we go behind-the-scenes of the fictional news network, with hosts Hope Jean Paul (Winstead) and Davis Miles (Baron Vaughn), and featuring, among others: Livia Scott, Sean Crespo, Carol Hartsell and Jeff Kreisler. Welcome to America's worst news network. No, it's not the one you're thinking of. This one is fictional. Maybe. Roll the clips (in four parts)!
When Jon Stewart tore into CNBC's business reporting last week on Comedy Central's The Daily Show, and CNBC's Mad Money man Jim Cramer sat there hopelessly acknowledging his mistakes, there was one guy who watched it go down having an insider's perspective from both sides of the conversation. As comedian Jeff Kreisler pointed out to me via email over the weekend: "My guess is I'm the only person that even remotely bridges the gap between Cramer and Stewart."
All of which made Kreisler view the Stewart-Cramer exchange a little differently. As he explained to me via e-mail yesterday:
Back to the "showdown," one of the great subtexts was the continuing blurring of the line between news & entertainment. "Infotainment" as we call it on "Shoot The Messenger." Just the fact that I've written comedy for both Cramer & Stewart shows that there's a (dangerous?) overlap. When the comedy show becomes a trusted source for news and the news network provides entertainment, where does one turn? Hell, throw Rush Limbaugh, Coulter, Bill Maher all into the mix of infotainers/opinionsters, too. Cramer has been a wildly successful speaker on college campuses, drawing huge crowds who want to see his shenanigans and hear how easy it is to make money. You know who else built up a huge following on college campuses? Dane Cook. Plenty of people will criticize both for the substance of their "acts," but guess what? They're both really successful, and you cannot deny their savvy for recognizing their market and exploiting it. Yes, the news should be austere and serious and informative, but it's not, and I'm not sure we can blame Cramer for being a fantastically vibrant example of that. We could just stop listening to him and hope he goes away. Which he won't.
Location, location, location. That's the mantra in real estate, and perhaps the folks at Adult Swim followed it by choosing Bleecker and Lafayette as the setting for their larger-than-life advertisement for Delcoated, the very funny new short series that airs on Thursday nights. (Thanks, Aziz)
You can catch up with Delocated here.
But about that location. The billboard looms large over 45 Bleecker, which is home not only to Mike Birbiglia's successful off-Broadway run of Sleepwalk With Me, but also Lizz Winstead's Shoot the Messenger satire of the morning news, as well as the new one-man show by Marc Maron, Scorching the Earth, which will play Sunday nights at the theater in March.
Coincidentally, Maron sat down with his show producer/comedy blogger Dylan P. Gadino for "A Tight Five."
How many comedians also are military veterans? Rob Riggle served in the Marine Corps before becoming an SNL featured player and Daily Show correspondent. And then there's Benari Poulten, make that Sgt. First Class Benari Poulten of the Army Reserves. When living in New York City, Poulten is part of the Shoot the Messenger production, writing and performing crew, helping to skewer the morning TV news machine, and also spending a few days here and there serving our nation. Until Poulten got called for active duty. After a farewell party in late September, Poulten shipped off for training in Alabama, and is expected to spend 2009 in Baghdad helping serve the Army's communications functions out of Iraq. As Poulten and I joked then, Shoot the Messenger's mocking misinformation probably already would be good training for military disinformation. Don't worry, U.S. Army, those were my joking words, not his.
Poulten says his friends and comedians should still be able to follow him through his military service through Facebook. Ah, the modern war. When Veterans Day rolled around, I thought of Poulten and reached out to him online. Turns out he got to spend Thanksgiving weekend home with his family, and you'll also be able to see and hear him live tonight in Boston, at Mottley's Comedy Club, opening for Jon Fisch.
Here is what else Poulten had to tell me about his life in active service:
Just got done with three days of Iraqi culture training where we’ve gotten outstanding instruction from an Iraqi woman who now works for DoD (Department of Defense). I’ve learned such helpful Iraqi phrases as “tasharafna”, meaning “I’m pleased to meet you.” Or “Shukran il musaa’atek”, “Thank you for your help.” And “Thib slaaHak tara armee,” “Drop your weapon or I will shoot.”
Did you know that our foreign wars are costing us $3 trillion dollars? If Sarah Silverman asked you to help out with a financial contribution, would you? Watch this public service announcement Silverman shot for the Shoot the Messenger folks and "Friends of Foreign Wars" and see if she can sway you...
The Daily Show is not the only faux news team in the Twin Cities this week for the 2008 Republican National Convention. Lizz Winstead brought her Shoot the Messenger crew from New York City to Minnesota, where they're in the middle of a three-night run at the Parkway Theater in Minneapolis (final show tonight at 7 p.m.). The StarTribune talked to Winstead about the field trip -- we learn her brother is the Republican mayor of nearby Bloomington -- and here, we can see an excerpt from their first night's show on Tuesday, which, for those of you who need reminding, is built around "Wake Up World with Hope and Davis," the nation's only six-hour morning program hosted by Hope Jean Paul (Winstead) and Davis Miles (Baron Vaughn):
The Internet is funny, and in this case it's the funny weird variety. Just try to watch this interview Lizz Winstead had with Jezebel editors Moe and Tracie last week on Shoot the Messenger.
More than a few people watched it live. They weren't exactly thrilled by it. And I just got finished reading the 577 comments that Jezebel readers have posted in the two hours since that site's editor wrote a post-mortem piece (probably much more by the time you click on it). You can also read Lizz Winstead's take on it here (she also blogged it on the Huffington Post). This interview will go down as less of a triumph and more of an insult dog-eat-dog drunken trainwreck.
So. Why did I say the Internet is funny weird, again? Jezebel gets more than a half-million visitors every weekday. And Moe and Tracie write for the site. So they all know how the Internet works. Right? People seem to be familiar with the Google at this point. Not my grandmother. Thank goodness. But most people. So whether you're weighing in with a comment about the Shoot the Messenger show, or, say, about to appear on the show as a guest, you could actually, before going on the show or talking about it, go visit the Shoot the Messenger site and see what the show is about. You'd see that it's two shows, the first half a parody of morning TV "news" programming, and the second half an actual interview segment in which Winstead talks to people in the media about serious issues. Sometimes she talks to funny people. But you could see this by visiting the site, and by see, I mean they have past interviews on video. Upcoming guests include Kurt Andersen, Rachel Maddow (Winstead used to work with her on Air America Radio), Catherine Crier and Bill Moyers. Paul Reickhoff, who founded the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, has been on the program multiple times. I just looked that up on the Internet! I also wonder if people who get requests for a field interview from The Daily Show know that it's not a real news program and airs on Comedy Central and will probably take them to task? Oh, wait. What's that? Winstead co-created that show? Funny weird.
Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee from Arizona, has a new ad that shows what life would be like in 2013 if he were elected president. The folks at Shoot the Messenger spun this vision a year further to 2014. They unveiled this video at their live weekly show last night.
The original campaign ad after the jump.
If you haven't seen Lizz Winstead's latest creation, then you're missing out. Winstead, who co-created The Daily Show and later went on to Air America Radio, now has her sights set on skewering morning TV. Her Monday night show, Shoot the Messenger, recently moved into larger digs at The Green Room at 45 Bleecker. In the new venue, the set design and everything else feels much more like an actual morning TV program (even if it's not actually six hours, as advertised in the tagline for "Wake Up World with Hope and Davis," TV's only six-hour morning 'infonewsment' show). There are the requisite sofa, chair and coffee table. A separate news desk.
Benari Poulten plays the frat-tastic energetic audience warm-up guy. Baron Vaughn as Davis Miles plays affable co-host to Winstead's ridiculous Hope Jean Paul. Each week typically features a taped interview segment with self-help author, "Life Expert" Dana Levan (Carol Hartsell). A big screen behind the stage plays these pre-taped bits, new toons, and last week offered a well-executed debate between other 24/7 network anchors (played by Lucas Held and Sean Crespo) with Vaughn moderating it live.
Here is a segment from last Monday:
And here is a toon they produced about the Democratic horse race:
It's unlike The Daily Show, which makes direct jokes about actual news and newsgatherers, nor is it like The Onion News Network, which is all about fake news. No. Shoot The Messenger aims somewhere in between, poking fun at the actual ridiculousness of morning TV news. After each week's 45-minute production, there's an intermission, after which Winstead returns to the stage as herself to talk about what they're up to, then interviews a special guest. Last week, she talked with Andy Borowitz about the 2008 campaign. Borowitz complimented Winstead on creating "a fully realized character" as well as the technology behind the production.
Tonight's Shoot The Messenger won't be the usual production, however. Instead, Vaughn and Darbi Worley will host a show centered on the several comedians who contribute to the program, with video highlights of their contributions followed by their stand-up. On the bill: Jeff Kreisler, Sean Crespo, Lucas Held, Baron Vaughn, Carol Hartsell and Jamie Kilstein.
The Ace of Clubs basement got packed more than I'd ever seen it Monday night for Lizz Winstead's weekly Shoot the Messenger show, which has only gotten stronger as a morning-show parody since the last time I saw it. And it's also got a Web site now (thanks to Todd Jackson from Dead-Frog), so you can get a glimpse of what you're missing.
Anyhow. Monday night's guests were Roseanne Barr and Mo Rocca. Roseanne (who also shared the stage Tuesday with Rosie O'Donnell at her NYCF Avery Fisher Hall show), took part in two interviews: one fake, and one very real. Roseanne had a lot of things to say about the current White House administration, none of them favorable and few of them printable here. But she pointed out that even being able to speak her mind shows we're still a free country. "As they get loudmouthed women to shut up, it's all over," she said.
Roseanne on Ann Coulter: "She talks for the people she talks for absolutely and perfectly, but she baits people." Especially the liberal white men who hate her, Roseanne said.
Mo Rocca, on tonight's political comedy panel at the 92nd Street Y for the NYCF, previewed his special "Liz Taylor marriage electoral rosetta stone," in which you can view American history through her romantic entanglements. "If Liz is ready to date a black man then America is ready to elect one," Rocca said. He also said the 2008 presidential campaign has been boring so far. "It's essentially a defensive campaign because everybody's worried about saying the wrong thing," he said. And as for voters? "It's like we're victims of spousal abuse," he said. "We don't trust them because we know they're going to screw around with us and f--- Iran."