Tag Archives: Best of 2010

Comedy Awards Tonight!

I’ve sat through countless other awards – why not for comedy?

Tonight at 9pm Eastern on Comedy Central, the first Comedy Awards will be broadcast. I’m not certain whether I can say “first annual” since the promotion for the show lists it as a historic, one-night-only celebration”.

According to the website, nominees were selected by The Comedy Awards Board of Directors, which includes: James Burrows, Stephen Colbert, Billy Crystal, James Dixon, Budd Friedman, Whoopi Goldberg, Brad Grey, Caroline Hirsch, Blair Kohan, Martin Lesak, Steve Levine, Seth MacFarlane, Adam McKay, Jimmy Miller, Conan O’Brien, Peter Principato, Don Rickles, Joan Rivers, Jay Roach, Chris Rock, Ray Romano, Rory Rosegarten, Phil Rosenthal, Michael Rotenberg, George Schlatter, Sharon Sheinwold Jackson, Mitzi Shore, David Steinberg,Jon Stewart, Lily Tomlin, Sandy Wernick and Geof Wills. That’s an odd mix of the deserving and the obscure.

You are also able to log on for the simulcast, which starts at 8:45 and features commentary by Andy Daly and Jen Kirkman along with red carpet interviews by Christian Finnegan. Andy and Jen will also host a series of short intermissions throughout the show with more interviews and coverage of the backstage press conference. Among the interviewees are Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Louis CK, Andy Samberg, Bill Hader, Kristin Schaal, Olivia Munn, Craig Robinson, Questlove & The Roots, Ty Burrell, Chloe Moretz, The Gregory Brothers, Rob Corddry and more.

Here are your categories and nominees for the event. Since the actual event took place on March 26th, you could spoil everything by looking up the winners or even watching the acceptance speeches. But that would only be funny if you could find a stupid person to wager with.

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Lonely Hearts for a Lonely Day

Valentine’s Day…for some, an occasion to hit the store for flowers, candy and cards and celebrate that special relationship over dinner (and hopefully some post-meal intimacy). For others, it’s a long and painful day where every turn reminds us that despite our best efforts, we are alone.

Music plays an important part in any emotional setting, of course, and for those celebrating their bliss there is a litany of sentimental songs to choose from. Most songs are about love, after all. But if you’re on the dark end of the street, songs are anything but celebratory. They become daggers plunging through your chest, each one seemingly so specific to your situation that it must have been written with you in mind.

All day long, commercial radio will no doubt fill your ears with the happy, peppy songs. Bloodshot Records has stepped up to take care of the rest of you by providing the Lonely Hearts Valentine’s Day Sampler. The free download features country, rock and blues from their label artists including Robbie Fulks, Wayne Hancock, Old 97’s, Alejandro Escovedo, Andre Collins and Bobby Bare Jr.

Click here for the free sampler.

Bloodshot has two other free “Best of 2010” samplers here and here. There’s a wealth of free MP3s available on Amazon with new promotions every month – bookmark this link for tracking those down.

Now put the sharp objects away and press “play“…

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Brit Film Awards and Dead Namesakes

The 64th Annual British Academy Film Awards were announced today, and I guess it’s no surprise that The King’s Speech would take Best Picture over there. But that is some serious momentum in a category that was all but conceded to The Social Network  not so long ago. Only two weeks until the Academy Awards, and it looks like we might have a couple of horse races after all. The major awards went this way:

Best Picture: The King’s Speech

Best Actor: Colin Firth

Best Actress: Natalie Portman

Best Director: David Fincher

Best Supporting Actor: Geoffrey Rush

Best Supporting Actress: Helena Bonham Carter

That’s four of the big six going to The King’s Speech; only Carter would be considered an underdog for the Oscar, although Christian Bale still looks like the favorite over Rush. The Brits do love their own (Rush is an Aussie, close enough) but momentum-leading Melissa Leo wasn’t even nominated for a BAFTA.

I’m just thrilled that the brilliant dark humorist Chris Morris won an award as first-time director for Four Lions. Maybe there is hope for award ceremonies.

The full list of nominees and winners can be found here.

As to the second part of today’s title, I was stunned ten days ago to read that Neil Young, Robert Young and Tony Levin all died on February 3rd.

I was briefly logging on to a news website and almost spat out my coffee wondering why the loss of a rock legend, a classic TV Dad and one of the best bass players ever to walk the Earth had not gotten even a crawl mention on CNN. Turns out that while celebrity deaths do happen in threes, the deceased were not the people I imagined but instead were an English footballer, a former Olympian and a jazz drummer.

Condolences to the families and friends of the actual deceased of course. And while I should have remembered that TV’s Robert Young left this mortal coil twelve years ago, I’m happy to report that Neil Young and Tony Levin are still alive and rocking. Like Meatloaf sang, two out of three ain’t bad.

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The Posies: Blood/Candy

Another 2010 Bridesmaid…very good, but missed the Top 25…

The Posies have been around so long and have broken up and reformed so often that it’s probably bad form to call Blood/Candy a comeback album. Isn’t that what we were supposed to call Every Kind of Light? But with their solo and Big Star efforts now put aside, Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer decided to revisit their oldest muse – each other – and reanimate a collaboration that has served them since they were teenagers. Camping out in the studio to live and breathe the music, the core of Blood/Candy was created in ten days and then tinkered with via various studios, diverse instrumentation and vocal collaborators (Kay Hanley, Hugh Cornwell).

The results, although not quite derivative, are that many of the songs have a familiarity that can’t be avoided when a band’s songwriters have such widespread collaborations. The structure of the fragmented “Licenses To Hide”, oddly enough, sounds like a Billy Joel epic from The Stranger, albeit sung by angels. And while it is not a well-known song, those who know The Odds’ “Love of Minds” will do a spit-take upon hearing the refrain and rhythm of “Cleopatra Street”.

Video: “For The Ashes

“For The Ashes” lets them frame the verses in Crosby/Nash harmonies before morphing into spacey falsettos, just as “Accidental Architecture” uses those same vocal icons to launch a wordy, jazzy melody into an infectious chorus. And staying on Nash point, the boys had to be listening to old Hollies records before penning the album’s best hook in “She’s Coming Down Again”. Likewise, Beach Boys fans will no doubt be struck by the vocal coda of “Enewetak”.

The songwriting is strong, and as one would expect, the vocals and harmonies are exquisite; both Stringfellow and Auer are in top form. There will be those who still point at Dear 23 or Frosting On The Beater as the apex of their career, but slotting this one in close proximity would not be a mistake. Whether or not this is a cohesive effort from a newly focused band or a collection of tracks assembled for the occasional statement, Blood/Candy is – as the title suggests – a showcase for both their delicate fragility and their powerful pop presence.

***

This review was originally printed in Bucketful of Brains.

The Posies on MySpace

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Comic Clips

The human race has one really effective weapon and that is laughter.”
 (Mark Twain)

Sadly, Mark Twain never won the Mark Twain Award for Comedy, but that doesn’t mean his words weren’t prescient. I need some laughs this weekend, and I’ll wager a bunch of you do, too. So let’s lock and load.

Here are Ten Comic Clips from some of my favorite performers.

(01) Stewart Lee on political correctness.

(02) Joe Rogan on Noah’s Ark

(03) Brendon Burns on feminism

(04) Darren Frost on today’s youth

(05) Eddie Izzard on Stonehenge

(06) Richard Herring on religion

(07) Jim Jefferies on drinking

(08) Ricky Gervais on the obesity problem

(09) Louis CK on gay marriage

(10) Robert Schimmel on Hollywood Squares

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Best Comedy DVDs of 2010: #2, #1

We conclude the countdown of the ten best comedy DVDs of 2010…

#2) Jim Jefferies: Alcoholocaust

Foul-mouthed, inebriated and a master storyteller, Jefferies will no doubt read enough reviews comparing him to Billy Connolly, at least the early era version. While that’s a worthy compliment, it does him a disservice, for Jefferies has evolved into a ribald storyteller whose annual assaults on Edinburgh draw earned comparisons to George Carlin, Bill Hicks and Richard Pryor. I don’t know what type of Hell he has visited, but he came back with a bag of demons that need to be excised, and the more pints that he consumes, the more he rattles that bag. Clearly a skilled and disciplined writer, he hits the stage with absolutely no inhibitions and a fuck you attitude. He’s going to tell the truth as he sees it, and if afterwards you are left like chum in the water, so be it.

Whether he’s cursing out a heckler, cracking a vulgar joke or spinning a yarn that will have you gasping for breath, Jefferies is consistently gut-busting funny. He’s often crass, sexist and graphic, but he’s relentless. His closing story is about trying to set up his childhood friend with a hooker…a friend who is disabled and terminally ill, by the way. Somehow he blends this hilarious over-the-top yarn with the men’s code of honor so that when you piss yourself laughing, you feel noble while doing it. (Comedy Central UK)

***

#1) Stewart Lee: If You Prefer A Milder Comedian, Please Ask For One

For sheer cerebral comedy entertainment, I don’t think there’s a better comedian on the planet right now than Stewart Lee. Erudite and culturally aware, his shows tend to evolve around a half-dozen thoughts at most, yet he mines them with the efficiency of a master surgeon and gets every scrap of meat off the bone. He’s not going to dumb down for you, and if you’re not paying attention, you’ll still laugh at the surface but totally miss the deeper, better levels. He’s had an amazingly prolific career, and although not as well-known in the States he is (rightfully) a legend in the UK. And as great as his recorded legacy is, this latest show might be his masterwork.

What I love about this show is the way you get the full monty – the brilliant opening with its impeccable timing and sight gags, the deep-seated rants against some celebretards clogging the television, an involved story that keeps going further than you dared think it would and then a burst of actual physical comedy with exasperated fourth-wall pleas and overt call backs. And then as a close, the three worst words in the English language – comedian with guitar – juggles both a transcendent emotional moment and a priceless tangent. Lee gives it to you straight, like a pear cider made from 100 percent pears. Absolutely brilliant. (Comedy Central UK)

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Best Comedy DVDs of 2010: #4, #3

We continue the countdown of the ten best comedy DVDs of 2010…

#4) Richard Herring: Hitler Moustache

There are people willing to take chances, and then there is Richard Herring in 2010. Determined to take back the toothbrush moustache from the legacy of Hitler and return it to comedy where it belongs, Herring uses this simple premise (or as he suggests, this terrible idea) as a platform from which to discuss racism, prejudice, hypocrisy and every other foible of human behavior. And, of course, he’s funny as hell in the process.

Available as a two-disc set packed with features, there’s actually a third disc available, albeit only from the distributor. Herring continues to create inventive, daring and unique comedy for those unsatisfied with the ordinary. (Go Faster Stripe)

***

#3) Maria Bamford: Plan B

Maria Bamford doesn’t have her own television show, although she should – she’s the strongest and most versatile comedienne since Tracey Ullman. And like Ullman – and Carol Burnett before her, Bamford has an uncanny ability to inhabit characters so thoroughly that you see the whole array of them in front of you even without makeup or a costume change. Like Sybil, but for your entertainment.

So in this show she performs her own sitcom – or dramedy – centered upon her family as if it’s a therapeutic exercise to excise some demons. It’s a brilliant performance, just Bamford in a t-shirt and jeans with a chair and a couple of lighting cues. It’s occasionally uncomfortable and overtly personal, but it’s riveting. Dozens of additional short offstage clips act as a psychological travelogue, at you at once wonder just how fragile she really is…and why the hell she isn’t a household name. (Stand Up! Records)

***

The countdown concludes tomorrow with #2 and #1

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