In his new special, "The Byrne Identity" (debuting July 25 on Comedy Central, out July 27 on DVD), comedian Steve Byrne says that his own identity is a blend of Korean and Irish, but when he went to China: "They thought I was Chinese. Even they couldn't tell the difference." Rim shot!
But seriously, folks. Steve Byrne talks a lot about personal identities in his stand-up special, from how a person can find their identity based solely on a single incident -- whether you're O.J. Simpson or the guy who poops his pants at an office party -- to how you never hear anyone refer to anyone as an African-Canadian, and how TV only seems to speak to us as a collective audience in terms of black or white, despite being in color.
Byrne spoke with me earlier this week and had some things to say about finding his own comedic identity, how he had a WTF moment reacting to the WTF podcast that questioned his comedic identity, and more. Before we get into it, here's a quick clip from "The Byrne Identity." Roll it:
When did you find your own identity? "When the half-hour came out, 'Happy Hour' came out, they did well, they sold well, and I thought maybe I needed to do something more. I said, 'There's nothing in it that people can realate to.' I gotta ask myself, 'Who am I and how can people relate to me? My identity is wrapped up in being Korean and Irish, and I didn't want to choose a side. There's a lot of comics who want to choose a side, and maybe they're German but they decide to be Mexican, like Carlos (Mencia). When I'd be in shows, I'd ask people in the front row who are they, and they couldn't answer..."
"One of the fun bits I had was walking into a music store and just picking up CDs and riffing on every genre in the store. I'd heard people make fun of goth music or country. I'd never heard anybody do all the forms of music and just tag it, so i had a lot of fun with that."
"I really, I was doing an interview with a guy from Sirius Satellite, one of the channels, he gave me a great compliment. He said you did a direct left turn and ditched your whole act and became better. I ditched my own energetic and animated self, and I feel like that makes up for a lack of material. I'm really happy about the jokes."
Speaking of changing identities and ditching energy and whatnot, did you happen to hear Dane Cook mention your name in his recent WTFpodcast interview with Marc Maron?
Showtime offers something new in an old-fashioned way tonight with the premiere of a six-episode summer stand-up showcase called Live Nude Comedy.
Shannon Elizabeth hosts, and before you start thinking you'll see her perform stand-up in the nude, well, not quite. Elizabeth (who became famous going nude in American Pie, and later learned professional poker, then Dancing With the Stars) will perform in brief comedy sketches with a group of performers that incluldes Josh Fadem, Chad Fogland, Michael Busch and Ramsey Moore. Each episode also will include two burlesque performances. Oh, and yes, there will be stand-up comedy. In fact, each half-hour will spotlight two stand-ups and give each an uncensored 10-minute set. Whitney Cummings, who performs on one of the episodes, also helped put the production together. She sat down with me for a few minutes during the Just For Laughs Chicago comedy festival to explain her motivations, including what she felt was a need to put new stand-ups in their best possible light (as in, longer sets, no censorship, fewer fake reaction shots). Watch:
The full schedule and listings (and a teaser video!) appears after the jump...
Apple did not tell me how it came up with its list of Best of Comedy 2008 in iTunes, so I cannot tell you if this lineup is based on sales, judged rankings or something else entirely. But I can tell you who made the iTunes cut in 2008 (I've reviewed half of these CDs, which means I still have some work to do). Whom do you think they overlooked?
Robert Kelly, Just the Tip
Steve Byrne, Happy Hour
Gabriel Iglesias, Hot and Fluffy
Josh Sneed, Unacceptable
Lisa Landry, Put Your Keys in the Keybowl
Pablo Francisco, Ouch! (Live from San Jose)
Jimmy Dore, Citizen Jimmy
Dov Davidoff, The Point Is
Bill Burr, Why Do I Do This?
Jeffrey Ross: No Offense, Live from New Jersey
The folks at Just For Laughs announced part of its 2008 slate for Montreal yesterday (proving once again, that a blogger cannot take a day off!)...
This year, Montreal introduces its first "industry conference" -- Just Comedy -- with Ivan and Jason Reitman talking father-son comedy shop on July 17, and Judd Apatow getting honored as "comedy person of the year" (year unspecified) on July 18.
The Galas (the biggest shows in size and scope) include hosts Craig Ferguson (July 18), Jimmy Fallon (July 19) and an "all-star" gala with Ron White, Paula Poundstone and Larry Miller (July 20).
Special events listed include: Stiles & Proops: Unplanned (July 15) featuring, well, whatever Ryan Stiles and Greg Proops feel like doing that night; South Park Live (July 16) with Matt Stone and Trey Parker; Omid Djalili (July 17); and Apatow For Destruction (July 18) featuring the aforementioned Apatow with cohorts Seth Rogen, Craig Robinson, Russell Brand and others.
Club shows, which often get grouped into themes, include The Nasty Show with hosts Nick DiPaolo and Patrice Oneal; The Ethnic Heroes of Comedy hosted by Frank Spadone with Steve Byrne, Gabriel Iglesias, Maz Jobrani and others; AMP'd, the Music Comedy Show with host Craig Robinson; Laugh-rodisiacs, the Relationship Show hosted by Greg Behrendt; the midnight Alternative Comedy Show hosted once again by Andy Kindler; the Best of the Uptown Comics which in Canadian means "urban" which means "black," hosted by Bruce Bruce with JB Smoove, Craig Robinson and others.
Tom Papa gets promoted from New Faces host in 2007 to the "Richard Jeni One-Person Show Series" with his show, "Only Human" (July 14-20).
Of course, the real treats for fans and the industry come in the New Faces showcases (to be hosted by Greg Giraldo and Dana Gould), and we won't know who makes it to Montreal until this weekend's final New York City auditions: May 1 at Comic Strip Live, May 2 at Stand-Up NY and May 3 at Broadway Comedy Club.
At 11 p.m. tonight, Comedy Central will debut a new hourlong special from Steve Byrne, Steve Byrne's Happy Hour. Byrne got some online space via Comedy Central Insider to talk up his special and noted that you'll either love it or loathe it. Really? Byrne reveals: "There are some jokes I absolutely love in this special and others I really have no idea what I was thinking at the time, but it seemed to work." More here. We've got three clips from the special to share with you. One here, two after the jump.
And if you want the full DVD, it's out April 1.
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).