Tracy Morgan hosted Laffapalooza 2008, which airs tonight on TBS, but taped last weekend at The Comedy Festival in Las Vegas, with Sheryl Underwood, Earthquake, Corey Holcomb, Mark Curry and Lavell Crawford performing. They sat me in the front row, which made it difficult to take notes, though on the bright side, there's a fair chance you'll see me during the telecast. Here's what I can tell you:
Jamie Foxx started Laffapalooza in Atlanta a few years back, but he managed to show up in the audience at Caesars Palace for the taping (sadly, he did not perform). Foxx literally stopped the show when he and his entourage entered the ballroom. Audience members as well as Morgan shouted their approval for the Oscar-winning man behind the plans. Later during taping, Foxx's sister arrived from the other side with our own group of friends in tow.
Before taping even began, Morgan showed he was ready to go off the script (literally, as he had a teleprompter that beckoned him throughout to get back on message), but all in good fun. He welcomed Eva, third-season winner of America's Next Top Model, who sat up front with her boyfriend, Lance Gross from Tyler Perry's House of Payne. Morgan also had fun with the Vegas audience. "We're in a financial crisis, you're at the casino...trying to win your house back!" Morgan also had a Michelle Obama moment while the cameras presumably were not rolling, when he said that at 40 years old, "For the first time in my life, I'm proud to be an American." Morgan was talking not only about the fact that America had elected Barack Obama president, but also referenced how much the world has turned on America during the Bush Administration. Heady stuff for a guy who has a public image of being crazy and/or aloof.
Here are some additional clips from Ellen DeGeneres and her variety show, Ellen's Even Bigger Really Big Show, which taped last week at Caesars Palace and airs this Saturday, Nov. 29, at 9 p.m. Eastern/Pacific.
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...
The first time I ever heard Andrew "Dice" Clay, his words were spoken by a teenager -- one of my high-school classmates was cracking up the lunch table with Dice's ribald versions of our childhood nursery rhymes. It was the late 1980s, and Dice quickly rose to the top of the comedy kingdom, playing sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden. A lot has changed since then. But the Dice man is back on the road, working clubs and performing stand-up. When I met up with him before his show Saturday night in Vegas for The Comedy Festival, I wasn't sure what to expect. He still has a big ego. Can you blame him? Or, rather, would you want him to be less assured of himself? In this brief interview, he tells me why he's still in the game after two decades of ups and downs.
That said, I could not help but wonder if his jacket had had a run-in with the Bedazzler. A couple of minutes later, the crowd in the Palace Ballroom began chanting for their headliner. "Dice! Dice! Dice!" And off he went, into the fray once more...
For someone who has built his public persona and career comeback in show business around the notion that he's slightly crazy, Tracy Morgan offstage can be quite sincere. People love him on NBC's 30 Rock, he just headlined the Apollo Theatre earlier this month for the New York Comedy Festival and now hosted Laffapalooza for The Comedy Festival in Las Vegas. Laffapalooza airs Saturday, Nov. 30 on TBS. I'll have more to say about the show tomorrow. In the meantime, watch this clip in which Morgan reflects on where his career and his comedy are at right now. Afterward, you all need to slow down and study!
I don't know if you can imagine a calm and controlled stand-up performance from Dane Cook, but you could have seen one last night if you were among the 4,000 in attendance for Cook's headlining slot at The Comedy Festival in Las Vegas. The wordplay and raunchy storytelling was still there. But that physicality wasn't. What gives? Maybe he's getting more mature and confident. Maybe he is more appreciative for his comedy fans after hitting bumps in the road to movie stardom. Well, why don't you let Cook tell you how he feels about his life and career now. He spoke with The Comic's Comic late last night after his Caesars Palace gig (which also featured longtime friends Al Del Bene and Robert Kelly as his opening support acts), and talked about looking back -- the deaths of both of his parents combined with the peak of his stand-up career made for "an impossible time" in his life -- and "looking forward to looking forward." What's next, Dancing with the Stars? Hmmm.
Fun fact: Do you know where David Alan Grier was last night when his stand-up performance was set to begin at Caesars Palace for The Comedy Festival? Festival staff didn't know. They caught up with him in his hotel room, where he was fast asleep! Good thing the show before his in the Palace Ballroom -- a TBS TV taping for the Cheech & Chong roast -- went an hour long, eh? That gave Grier just enough time to make his gig. Afterward, Grier talked with me about his new Comedy Central sketch show, Chocolate News. He says the comparisons to Chappelle's Show aren't really valid, though he understands why they'd say that. Grier's initial pitch? Take Bryant Gumbel's Real Sports, add In Living Color, subtract Wayans brothers. Watch and learn:
At the end of their rousing live performance last night, the Kids in the Hall told the crowd at Caesars Palace for The Comedy Festival that not only had they witnessed the Kids' "first show in about three months," but also their Vegas debut. "You got to see us shake the rust off," they quipped.
Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson certainly didn't seem rusty last night, though, hamming their way through more than an hour of new sketches they have shared with North American audiences over the past year. That includes the return of the Chicken Lady, Buddy Cole, and an encore with the head crusher that entertained despite technical difficulties with McKinney's video camera. After two decades, the Kids may have gotten older, but they're still full of energy and comedic chemistry. And as I learned after the show, they get as much of a kick -- if not more of one -- out of their live gigs as they did with their TV show during the 1990s. You can see that in their live act, too. They're not a sketch troupe attempting to duplicate or reenact their popular TV sketches. They're five guys actively writing new material that works live, and also willing to ad-lib, riff, giggle and make you feel as though you're part of something special. Which you are.
Ellen DeGeneres has competition next week in the TV variety showcase business -- Rosie O'Donnell plans "Rosie Live" next Wednesday, Nov. 26, for NBC -- so DeGeneres really had to deliver on her promise for Ellen's Even Bigger Really Big Show on TBS, which airs Saturday, Nov. 29. And in a very Vegas way last night, DeGeneres delivered.
Ellen learned a lot from the lessons of last year's show, which was a really big mess, with live improvised bits that went nowhere, production issues and too many things thrown into the pot. Perhaps her reluctance to ruffle any more feathers during last year's Writers Strike had a hand in that. Or maybe it was just a rookie mistake. Regardless. For her "even bigger really big show," Ellen kept things simpler by just giving the people what they want. More Ellen, for one thing. It's not as if she doesn't know how to host a major TV broadcast, whether it's her own daytime syndicated talker or the Oscars. So. She opened the show with a strong monologue about Vegas (I've got a clip), joking how she wore her lucky thong ("Ironically, it's a straight!") and noting that Sin City has become more family-friendly, offering "amusement parks, arcade games and younger hookers." In a taped sketch, Ellen pranks the audience across the street at Imperial Palace by posing as "Chrissie Stewart" impersonating Ellen in the celebrity impersonation show with fake Madonna and fake Janet Jackson. The audience seems to have bought it.
Who says you cannot announce a development deal at a comedy festival anymore? TastiSkank, the sexy funny musical duo of Sarah Litzsinger and Kate Reinders, arrived in Las Vegas last night for The Comedy Festival and told The Comic's Comic they had just signed a deal with Sony Pictures Television for their own sketch TV show. They have begun meeting with showrunners. "We already have some sketches done," Litzsinger said. Both ladies have experience on Broadway -- Litzsinger as Belle in "Beauty & the Beast"; Reinders as Glinda in "Wicked" -- and in only their fourth big performance together, got the attention of the industry in Aspen in 2007.
They're in Vegas this weekend as part of the fest's LOL Lounge, free showcases for fans at Caesars Palace and for you online.
Here's a taste of the TastiSkank:
It's chilly in New York City, so The Comic's Comic has hopped on a jet and headed West, young man, to the more hospitable climes of Las Vegas, Nevada. Oh, there's a big comedy festival going on? What a pleasant coincidence! I guess my plans for the next few days are covered. Come back later tonight and throughout the weekend for my comprehensive and sometimes quite exclusive coverage of The Comedy Festival. I may even figure out how to use my Twitter...
Did you know there are really two sides to the comedy of Jim Breuer? Sure, there is the Half-Baked, heavy-metal rock comedy persona Breuer has developed over the past decade, and certain to be in effect tonight in Las Vegas when Breuer performs with his Sirius "Breuer Unleashed" sidekick Pete Correale. But there's also this "family-friendly" comedy side of Breuer, which you can see in these two new videos...
Related: Breuer recently recorded a new one-hour Comedy Central special and DVD, "Let's Clear the Air." For info, go here.
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.
If you have paid any attention to the comings and goings of Katt Williams this fall, you won't be surprised by the announcement this morning that Williams has cancelled his planned performance Thursday (Nov. 20) at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace. Williams was supposed to be one of the main attractions at this year's edition of The Comedy Festival, put on by TBS.
A statement from the fest: "The Comedy Festival, TBS, Concerts West/AEG and Caesars Palace apologize for the inconvenience that this causes ticketholders." If you have a ticket, you get an automatic refund if you paid by credit card. If you paid in cash, present your ticket where you bought it to get your money back. The fest organizers do not, however, claim responsibility for any travel expenses you may have made in conjunction with his performance.
Earlier: My coverage of Katt Williams.
Is it too early to celebrate Christmas? Yes. It's not even Thanksgiving week yet, and already Comedy Central is rolling out Jeff Dunham's Very Special Christmas Special, which debuts at 9 p.m. tonight. This is a big week for Dunham. Not only does he have the TV special, but he also has the DVD version out on Tuesday, and this weekend, he'll go to Las Vegas for The Comedy Festival: Dunham plays the Colosseum at Caesars Palace on Saturday, Nov. 22. Watch the trailer for a peek at how Dunham and his dummies celebrate the holidays.
More clips and info on how to buy the DVD, after the jump.
TBS has announced a list of 30 comedy acts who will perform inside the network's special LOL Lounge comedy club inside Caesar's Palace during The Comedy Festival (Nov. 20-22). Did I mention that these nightly shows will be free? Did I also mention that you don't even necessarily need to be in Las Vegas to see them? I believe I just did. Details, please.
LOL Lounge shows begin each night at 6:30 p.m. Pacific (9:30 p.m. Eastern), and thecomedyfestival.com online will feature four different video streams: 1) The LOL Lounge, 2) Backstage footage with the comedians, 3) The Web Show with Ian Bagg and Janet Varney, webcasting from the casino floor and offering interactive online chat, and 4) Greatest Hits from past Vegas fests.
The LOL Lounge acts? Jeff Garcia hosts Thursday, Pete Correale hosts Friday and Tammy Pescatelli hosts Saturday. Also on the lineups: Ian Bagg, Matt Braunger, Whitney Cummings, Jim David, Dana Eagle, Bret Ernst, Kirk Fox, Don Friesen, Ron G., Eddie Gossling, Brian Haner, Robert Hawkins, Gayla Johnson, Jesse Joyce, Kristen Key, Simon King, Veronica Mosey, Tim O'Rourke, Karen Rontowski, Carl Rimi, Ken Rogerson, Malik S., Dwight Slade, Paul Varghese, Laz Viciedo, Johnny Walker, and TastiSkank.
TBS and The Comedy Festival in Las Vegas, aka a "Very Funny" Festival, has filled out its main lineup for the 2008 comedy confab from Nov. 20-22. And here are the latest additions:
Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008
Josh Blue and Ralphie May from Last Comic Standing -- The Palace
Joan Rivers presents Comedivas, with Kate Clinton, Suzanne Westenhoefer and Jim David -- Augustus Ballroom
Triple Threat Comedy with Jamie Kennedy, Mitch Fatel, Danny Bhoy -- Augustus Ballroom
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2008
Dave Attell -- The Palace
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!