If you were on the Internet at all in the past week, then you already had learned that Ricky Gervais filmed a short cameo as David Brent, the character that catapulted him and The Office to stardom, to appear in the American version alongside Steve Carell's Michael Scott. Gervais confirmed it a week ago to Piers Morgan on CNN, but said he wished it had been a surprise.
I do, too.
Knowing it's coming builds up your expectations for something special. Not knowing makes the surprise itself special, adding to your enjoyment. But since that was out of the way, what did you think? The scene opened the episode, completely without context. We don't know where they are, or why they're there. Did we need to know that, though? All we see is a hallway and an elevator, as David Brent emerges and meets Michael Scott. Needless to say, they hit it off, as they're two peas in a cluelessly offensive pod. If you haven't seen it yet, or just want to see it again, here it is. Short and sweet.
Roll the clip!
Gervais agreed to reprise his role as a gesture to Carell to honor him before he leaves the show later this season.
Slightly related: Will Ferrell also has agreed to appear in four episodes this season to help say goodbye to Carell's Michael Scott. Consider this the show's own big bang theory?
Well, well, well. We all can agree that Ricky Gervais acted like a guy who didn't want to be hosting the Golden Globes, at least not in the way that Hollywood (and particularly the Hollywood Foreign Press Association) expects its hosts to play nice. But was he funny?
Let's go to the videotape. Just joking. Nobody uses videotape in 2011. Let's go to the official online clips!
In his monologue, Gervais didn't stick the landing on the opening Charlie Sheen joke, but as soon as he started in on The Tourist, the audible gasp of hundreds of rich, famous, beautiful people sucking the air out of the room meant that Gervais had everyone's attention from then on. Cut to joke victim Johnny Depp. He's smiling. Phew. Where's Cher? Not there? OK. Everyone's laughing. Sex and the City 2? Even Mr. Big is smiling and nodding in approval. A Scientology joke -- the Scientology joke -- followed by the tag: "My lawyers helped me with the wording of that joke." And then the Hugh Hefner jokes, followed by the act-out on the line "just don't look at it when you touch it." This was all happening live on network television (NBC) at 8 p.m. on a Sunday -- 7 p.m. Central, 5 p.m. Pacific! Wow. Now that's some ballsy talk. About balls.
But Gervais was only getting started. When he introduced Eva Longoria to introduce the HFPA president, Philip Berk, Gervais said of the man in charge: "That's nothing. I just had to help him off the toilet and pop his teeth in." Berk's retort? "And Ricky, next time you want me to help you qualify one of your movies, go to another guy." Then he smiled and turned quickly toward Gervais. Still friends? Is this how the game is played? Or is there a backlash a brewing?
Gervais was gentler when introducing Alec Baldwin and Jennifer Lopez, saying: "He's Alec from the Rock. She's just Jenny from the block. If the block in question is that one on Rodeo Drive between Cartier and Prada." That's a gentle gibe, right?
Gervais hit hard in this introduction: "But many of you in this room probably know him best from such facilities as the Betty Ford Clinic and Los Angeles County Jail. Ladies and gentleman, Robert Downey Jr." Everyone seemed to think Robert Downey Jr. handled Gervais best by getting in a quick quip, saying: "Aside from the fact that it's been hugely mean-spirited with mildly sinister undertones, I'd say the vibe of the show is pretty good so far, wouldn't you?" RDJ then launched into his own bit, which was equally ribald, suggesting he have/had sex with each of the best actress nominees.
But wait. There was much more...
I don't know if you can ever have too many stars on a benefit show, but Comedy Central certainly tries every two years on behalf of autism research with its Night of Too Many Stars: An Overbooked Concert for Autism Education, which airs again tonight.
Much of the event taped earlier this month in NYC, although when it airs this evening, host Jon Stewart and a slew of celebrities will appear live in LA to answer the phones when you call in to make a donation. Viewers also will be able to vote, via texting, on celebrity stunts during the live portion of the broadcast. Comedians appearing and manning the phone bank include Jason Alexander, Mike Birbiglia, Julie Bowen, Drew Carey, Cedric the Entertainer, George Clooney, Bryan Cranston, Larry David, Will Forte, Jeff Garlin, Lauren Graham, Tom Hanks, John Hodgman, Rob Huebel, Penn Jillette, Chris Kattan, Jimmy Kimmel, B.J. Novak, Conan O’Brien, Jim Parsons, Andy Richter, Maya Rudolph, Paul Scheer, Adam Scott, Bill Simmons, David Spade, Eric Stonestreet, Betty White, Larry Wilmore and Weird Al Yankovic.
As for the show itself, I saw it, so I can tell you what you may see, unless they decide to edit it out.
You may or may not see Tina Fey joke about wanting to say hi to her family, then realizing the show is airing on Thursday night, when 30 Rock is on, adding: "Who am I kidding, they're watching Shit My Dad Says on the DVR." Here she is with Stewart showing off her 2011 Tina Fey Swimsuit Calendar:
You may or may not see Ricky Gervais make the audience gasp with a DUI joke that also includes a rape! Here is joking about his history of charitable giving, including the time he was given the gift of a goat. An African goat. Roll it.
You may or may not see Tracy Morgan awkwardly work with Stewart through a sketch about how big his pockets were.
You may or may not see Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell sing a novelty song that's only about 19 months too late, including the re-appearance of Tay Zonday. If you were around 19 months ago, that name might make more sense. But probably not.
You may or may not see Jim Gaffigan kill with his new material about McDonald's.
Even a movie promotion cannot stop this new episode of "Between Two Ferns" from being surprisingly funny, but then again, when both Zach Galifianakis and Steve Carell star in the movie Dinner with Schmucks, and they both are funny in pretty much every situation they choose to be, then this will all work out just fine. You're fat! You have a big nose! See? We're all good. Roll the clip!
Sometimes events happen at the same time in a way that are coincidental and yet entirely intentional. At this year's Just For Laughs in Montreal, festival-goers can attend with their passes or buy a ticket to a preview screening tonight of the upcoming comedy, Dinner For Schmucks, hosted by director Jay Roach. On Friday, the creative staff from Funny or Die will convene at the JFL Comedy Conference for an afternoon panel on the present and future state of online comedy.
These comedy worlds and questions all collide in this new FoD clip uploaded this morning, featuring Nick Kroll as his craft-services character Fabrice Fabrice, cornering Steve Carell at a press junket for Dinner For Schmucks and asking him questions only a schmuck could love. Funny improv here. Carell plays it straight, but does break slightly. Roll the clip!
On the eve of the annual Emmy nominations, Steve Carell made his first appearance on The Colbert Report since Carell and Colbert both were colleagues on Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The reunion did not disappoint!
Carell opened the show by taking over the show, insisting instead, in a grey suit that closely matched Colbert's own, that we would be watching The Carell Corral.
That may have been Colbert's dream, but comedy fans weren't dreaming when they saw Colbert drop his "Stephen Colbert" arch-conservative character to engage in a witty repartee with Carell about the movie he was plugging, Despicable Me, and their mutual careers post-Daily Show in a re-enactment of their old "Even Stephen" segments. And all of that posturing prompted a cameo, albeit on a screen behind the duo, of Stewart himself to ask how he can move on and take his career to the next level after The Daily Show. Is that a question he really needs to be asking in real life? Let's not think about whether he'll take over Late Show when David Letterman retires, and just for these next six-plus minutes, enjoy the reunion for what it was. Roll the clip!
What happens when you take a French film, get Andy Borowitz to adapt a contemporary American screenplay for it, have Jay Roach direct it, and cast Paul Rudd and Steve Carell as the leads, with Rudd playing that "Paul Rudd" character and Carell playing that shades of "Michael Scott" character? It's called Dinner for Schmucks, and it hits a cinema near you this July.
The plot is pretty straightforward, if you read the title and know what a schmuck is. Do you know what a schmuck is? Do Zach Galifianakis and Jeff Dunham both count equally as schmucks? This trailer also features Kristen Schaal, Andrea Savage, Larry Wilmore and Ron Livingston. That should be more than a satisfactory amount of information before you watch the darned clip. So watch the darned clip!
Good to see Chicago's mainstream and new media all take ample note of Second City's 50th anniversary celebration this weekend. I couldn't make it out there, but still feel like I could bear witness to some of the fun through all of the coverage. Chicago's two major daily newspapers, the Tribune and the Sun-Times, both covered it. Here's the Sun-Times report on the reunion shows. The Trib had a whole section of stories on Second City's 50th that kicked off last Sunday. Time Out Chicago has a large gallery of Second City snapshots, interviews and reviews, too. And The A.V. Club's Chicago bureau weighed in with some more Second City interviews. Dig in!
If you'd prefer your recaps by video, here's one Second City reunion sketch featuring Bonnie Hunt and Richard Kind, among others:
And here is the AP's overview, which opens on an old Second City sketch starring Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch that would end up becoming a recurring SNL bit on "wicked" Bostonians:
Last night's showcases also included an onstage reunion of Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert, plus Rachel Dratch, Bonnie Hunt, Jack McBrayer, Paul Dinello, Jeff Garlin and more (read the Trib's blog post or Time Out Chicago's lengthier recap). That followed Saturday morning's panel with "The Colbert Report," most all of whom were groomed for greatness at Second City.
Oh, also, thanks to intrepid legendary Chicago movie critic Roger Ebert for reminding me that NPR also talked to Second City about Second City this weekend. Here's the Morning Edition report on Second City's 50th:
Before I get to my review of Cheech & Chong: Roasted, the TV show that'll air on TBS at 10 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 30 -- and the TV taping over the weekend at Caesars Palace was a mess from start to finish thanks to production snafus, delays, and some awful attempts at roasting -- let's meet our roast victims, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong, the pioneering stoner comics of the 1970s who have reunited after many years apart.
So yes, they're happy to be together again and touring with a live show. But what about the roast, which is sure to test the TBS editing crew?
Things I learned from watching the TV taping of Cheech & Chong: Roasted...