Producers of a Broadway revival of Terrance McNally's "Lips Together, Teeth Apart," announced that Megan Mullally and Patton Oswalt would take the leading roles when the former Off-Broadway hit from 1991 returns to New York City's bigger stages in April 2010. It's set for a limited engagement to run through June.
Oswalt played drama on the big screen this year in Big Fan, but his Broadway debut in the coming year marks yet another stand-up comedian who will learn the lines for the dramatic stage. Is this a new trend or just something we're only now starting to notice? Who's to say? A quick search of my memory and the Internet turns up at least these precedents of going from stand-up to stage:
Mario Cantone has performed in several Broadway productions since 1995. But it seems as though the connection between stand-up and Broadway began heating up in the past six years, when Eddie Izzard received a Tony Award nomination for starring in the 2003 revival of "A Day in the Death of Joe Egg." Since then, musical comedian Stephen Lynch has starred in the stage adaptation of the film, "The Wedding Singer," Bob Saget took a turn as the Man in Chair in 2007's version of "The Drowsy Chaperone," Cedric the Entertainer was part of last year's short-lived revival of "American Buffalo," and of course, the beginning of 2009 saw Will Ferrell romp on Broadway in his one-man show, "You're Welcome America: A Final Night with George W. Bush." Currently, you can see David Alan Grier in David Mamet's new play, "Race," co-starring with James Spader, Richard Thomas and Kerry Washington.
Who else am I missing from this list? Are comedians finally being taken seriously as stage performers? Discuss.
It's about time. Seriously. I long have wondered why Comedy Central had not done more to cement its branding as the central place for all things comedy, so today's announcement by the cable network that it has created a live entertainment division sounds like positive news. The network, of course, already has established Comedy Central Records and increased its position there in recent years -- the release of the posthumous Mitch Hedberg CD debuted at #18 on the Billboard charts and stayed in the top 100 for the next two weeks. They also have expanded to live stand-up DVDs and comedy tours. Several comedians in the past year have made side deals with Comedy Central to air their hour specials. And this year, the network has partnered with the New York Comedy Festival to provide new broadcast and retail opportunities. Acknowledging this expansion, Comedy Central publicly has gone on record today that they're willing to step things up a notch or two or more.
Here is an official quote from Mitch Fried, the new senior v.p. of Comedy Central Live Entertainment:
"By providing talent, whether they're just starting out or are already household names, with the strength and power of the COMEDY CENTRAL brand we will be able to maximize their exposure and revenue by reaching their fans across multiple platforms, be it through a tour, a special, a CD, a DVD or all of the above, making COMEDY CENTRAL an even more appealing home for the top comedians in the industry."
The first deal for the division is with musical comedian Stephen Lynch, who Comedy Central will back on both a U.S. and international tour, and a one-hour stand-up special that'll air first on Comedy Central, then released unedited on DVD.
Comedy Central's Comedy Central Park was such a big success last Friday that by the time I got to the outdoor venue, there was a line to get into the line to get into the place to see Stephen Lynch, Mike Birbiglia and Julian McCullough. You could hear them just fine from a football field away, but you really had to be there to see it. I'm not a big fan of outdoor comedy as a general rule, but Comedy Central Insider's recap with photos sure makes it look like it was a lot of fun for the 5,000-plus in attendance for the free show. Bonus, it was Birbiglia's birthday. And they gave him pizza cake! See!
Summertime, and the comedy is easy to find, even outside here in New York City.
Central Park SummerStage offers its first "Comedy Central Park" of the season tonight with Stephen Lynch, Mike Birbiglia and Julian McCullough. It's free!
Down at Tompkins Square Park, NY Laughs offers its second free summer of laughs, with shows June 29, July 13, July 26, Aug. 10, Sept. 19 and Sept. 28. Ted Alexandro kicks things off in the first show, which has an early start time of 6 p.m.
Comedy Central's annual "Stand-Up Showdown" airs today, rebroadcasting the top 20 stand-up specials as voted online by fans over the past month. It's airing now!
The full schedule/countdown...which began at 11:30 a.m. today...(with applicable taping season)
20) Loni Love (season 11)
19) Doug Benson (season 8)
18) Chelsea Handler (season 11)
17) Steve Byrne (season 10)
16) Maria Bamford (season 11)*
15) Rich Vos (season 7)*
14) Dane Cook (season 3)
13) Stephen Lynch (season 12)**
12) Mike Birbiglia (season 10)*
11) Demetri Martin (season 8)
10) Mitch Hedberg (season 1)
9) Jim Gaffigan (season 3)
8) Pablo Francisco (season 4)
7) Kyle Cease (season 10)
6) Mitch Fatel (season 11)
5) Lewis Black (season 6)*
4) Frank Caliendo (season 8)
3) Lisa Landry (season 11)
2) Josh Sneed (season 11)
1) Jeff Dunham (his Spark of Insanity hourlong special)
* These comedians have multiple half-hour CCPs. Rich Vos has one upcoming this season.
** Stephen Lynch is the only one from this current crop of CCPs to make the list. Which, of course, is unfair to the many comedians this season who also taped with Lynch but haven't gotten on the air yet. Then again, this whole "showdown" is essentially just a test to see which comedian wants to mobilize his or her fans to vote early and often for them to get an extra TV airing. Really, that's it. No big cash prize. No trophy. But it certainly got us paying attention to Comedy Central on a Sunday in January, right? Of course, if I were one of the comedians who made the top 20, I'd probably still feel pretty good about it (while also looking at the other comedians who got listed ahead of me and behind me and wondering where I stood, which is why you have to realize and remind yourself that this isn't a "showdown" at all).