MTV continues to dip its toes back into the waters of actual professional comedy (as opposed to the "reality" programming most viewers watch for laughs) this Sunday with the premiere of The CollegeHumor Show (9:30 p.m. Eastern). It has an initial six-episode order. What should we expect? I talked to Sam Reich, who runs CHTV and directs the show, to find out.
I take it the show came about through CollegeHumor's "Hardly Working" series of original videos. When did you guys start producing "Hardly Working" segments, anyhow, how did that come about, and when did you realize that there might be something there that could be translated and expanded into a full 22-minute TV show? Hardly Workings began when we moved into our new office about a year and a half ago. The first one was called "Trust Fall." It consistent of Amir going up to Jake, saying "Do you trust me?", falling backwards, and hitting the floor. That's it. Obviously there's a big difference between a ten-second video and a twenty-minute TV show. While the TV show is like a Hardly Working, it's not a Hardly Working: it's slightly more down-to-earth and character driven.
This is today's Hardly Working, btw:
How and why did you end up pitching MTV on it? Was the network's previous relationship with the Human Giant guys an influence at all in that decision? How do you think CollegeHumor's "reality" will fit in with the rest of MTV's stable of "reality" programming? MTV actually came to us with the skeleton of the idea. Originally the idea was to recycle the material we do on the site and create little bumpers in order to turn it into a TV show. In other words, 90% old material, 10% new material. Now it's 90% new material, 10% old material, and a much better show. Human Giant definitely paved the way for comedy on MTV, but so did The State and Beavis and Butthead. In a way, comedy shows on MTV get more exposure because they stand out against the network's other content.
Dazzling. Startling. Laugh-out-loud hilarious. Violet Krumbein's one-woman romp is called Human Painkiller, and for good reason, because I'm not sure how anyone can still feel pain after a half-hour with Krumbein, unless you're hurting from laughing so much. In black tights, sparkly gold miniskirt, fanny pack and tap shoes, Krumbein grabs your attention from the start and never lets go in a multi-character farce of outrageous proportions.
Some may compare Krumbein with Gilda Radner. I think of her show more as though Radner got to play in Pee-Wee's Playhouse. There's a song-and-dance number about hating pills, several love interests, happy fun glove, flashbacks, sound cues and a downright dangerously silly sex scene. At one point, Krumbein declares: "It kills me that such a beautiful woman has such horrible mental problems." You're meant to think of this as a moment of self-deprecation. And yet I don't find anything wrong with her at all. Director Megan Neuringer said she didn't exactly try to rein Krumbein in, but rather has worked with her in terms of structure so the audience "knows this is all deliberate." It's not haphazard at all. It's very deliberately absurd and funny.
In a note to friends on Facebook, Krumbein warned: "the show is offensive to Russians, Jews, Gays, Old People, Activists, Health Aides, Rich People, Epileptics, sufferers of Von Willebrand Disease, Healers, and Inventors." More importantly, it's only offensive to people who lack a sense of humor.
Go see Violet Krumbein in Human Painkiller, 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 15 at the UCB Theatre in NYC. Dates in November and December to be scheduled.