Tag Archives: Dave Attell

T.G.I.F. – Ten For Tough Crowd

My little corner of the universe is finally starting to draw some first-rate comedians on a regular basis. Tomorrow night I’m headed out to see the great Nick DiPaolo, and in two weeks Patrice O’Neal lumbers into town. Perhaps because both have recent specials they’re hitting some of the stops they might not ordinarily target, but whatever the reason, I’m thrilled.

I first became a fan of both on the late, great Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn. Sure, it wasn’t the biggest hit in the history of cable, but anyone I’ve ever talked to who watched more than a couple of episodes became a total loyalist. I’m still flummoxed that a network like Comedy Central hasn’t figured out that an anthology of those shows – hell, even a three-DVD “best of” package – would be gobbled up immediately by the core fans.

Maybe this year, Santa?

So in honor of Nick and Patrice, as well as Colin Quinn, Jim Norton, Greg Giraldo and the rest of the comics who made those shows magical, here are Ten For Tough Crowd. Enjoy the weekend!

(01) – Nick DiPaolo

(02) – Colin Quinn

(03) – Patrice O’Neal

(04) – Jim Norton

(05) – Greg Giraldo

(06) – Judy Gold

(07) – Dave Attell

(08) – Keith Robinson

(09) – Rich Vos

(10) – Jim David

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T.G.I.F. – Ten For Greg Giraldo

On the calendar for this past Wednesday was the all-star comedy show at The Beacon Theatre to honor the memory of Greg Giraldo. The show, originally organized by his fellow comics to raise money for his kids, eventually turned into a kickoff campaign for the National Youth Recovery Foundation thanks to his widow MaryAnn…“I’ve launched this effort to give more children like mine a break from the chaos of addiction, have fun and meet other children who face the same challenges.” The event was sold out , with another benefit planned for Los Angeles.

I couldn’t make it to NYC for the show, and frankly I’m stunned that I’m having difficulty finding reviews. But if you want to make a donation to the cause, check the link above for The Greg Giraldo Fund for Families Living with Addiction. As with any charity, do your homework and research them first.

So here’s some clips from his friends – Ten For Greg Giraldo

(01)Jerry SeinfeldHis HBO debut

(02) – Tom PapaLive on Leno

(03) – Jesse JoyceI quit drinking

(04) – Dave AttellRacist Dinosaur

(05) – Judy GoldMom and Kids

(06) – Jim NortonRoasting Gene Simmons

(07) – Colin QuinnExcerpt from Top 100

(08) – Ted AlexandroThe Gym

(09) – Lewis BlackNuclear Holocaust

(10)Greg Giraldoa tribute to the master.

In the comedy world, Greg was a perfect ten.

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Best Comedy Albums of 2010: #3-2-1

Year End List caveat: I’m splitting comedy albums apart from comedy DVD projects, so if someone had a DVD that was basically the same as the album I’m rating it as an album. If someone winds up in the DVD category that doesn’t mean their album wasn’t top ten material…just trying to find some way of being fair. That said, there’s not an item on either of these lists that I don’t think is worth your immediate attention…click to hear clips and judge for yourself!

Maybe the most amazing thing about my list – and I didn’t realize what was happening until after I locked everything down – is that nine of the top ten were debut albums. That is partially due to the likelihood that an established seller will more likely get the financial backing for a DVD project. But it also signals the fact that a group of brilliant writers and performers (many of whom have been staff writers for successful and established shows and performers) are getting an opportunity to get their unique voices out there. 

It’s heartbreaking to realize how many great comic minds we’ve lost in recent years, but it’s reassuring to know that so many have picked up the torch.

Finalizing a top ten was tough, determining the top three was exasperating.

But here we go…

***

#03: Kyle Kinane, DEATH OF THE PARTY

Great imagery and material; immediately captivating with an incredibly original style. Sure, he looks and sounds disheveled, but this album straddles the line between stream of consciousness riffing and nuggets of cosmic gold. I will always marvel at the way Mitch Hedberg’s brain worked for puns and one-liners; and I think Kinane’s storytelling presentation is on that same level of greatness.  (A Special Thing Records)

***

#02: Anthony Jeselnik, SHAKESPEARE

He might be the smartest writer out there; if you don’t believe it just ask him! Deliberate slow pacing, where he clearly enunciates every word to squeeze every nuance, silence and twist for maximum effect. You have to be very skillful to present yourself as an arrogant know-it-all constantly baiting the audience, but when your CD is one perfectly constructed joke after another, you are acquitted. (Comedy Central Records)

***

#01: Auggie Smith, SMELL THE THUNDER

A great combination of social exasperation, political/religious commentary and brilliant writing. Smith’s album is a blend of Patton Oswalt, Dave Attell, Lewis Black, Bill Hicks and Doug Stanhope – basically everything I like about standup comedy. Great pacing, exceptional delivery and inflection, and even his throw-away lines are hilarious. In a year when many strong comedy albums were released, this was the cream of the crop. (Rooftop Comedy)

***

Next week: The Best Comedy DVDs of 2010.

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Greg Giraldo Benefit Concert

Anyone who has had loss in their lives knows that the Holiday season is an especially painful time. Greg Giraldo’s wife and young children are spending their first December without him.

Giraldo, who would have been 45 last Friday, never sparked on the radar of the general public the way he did with devoted comedy fans, who revered him as one of the sharpest minds in the game. Fellow comics spoke often of his unselfishness and approachability; you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who had a bad word to say about him. And although he was often the butt of jokes because of his lack of success, those skewering him were likely as bewildered by it as I am.

Videos: The Best of Greg Giraldo

Many of his peers will be performing as part of a benefit concert to raise money for Greg’s family. The star-studded show already lists Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Attell, Tom Papa, Lewis Black, Jim Norton, Judy Gold, Colin Quinn, Ted Alexandro and Jesse Joyce, with more names to come. The concert will take place Wednesday February 9th at The Beacon Theatre in NYC.

Tickets go on sale Saturday December 18th.

 

In the comedy world, Greg was a perfect ten.

 

 

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Comic Pressure

Still reeling from the loss of Greg Giraldo.

Most people know that comics often admit they are insecure, prone to depression, constantly wondering whether they are funny enough or how long they will be able to keep the pace. I’ve read countless interviews where the comedian states that the stage time is the easy part, it’s the other 23 hours that are a challenge.

The lifestyle is difficult – separation from family and friends, countless hotels and airports, the competition, the back-stabbing, the inability for most other people to understand what really makes you tick. The constant exposure to temporary people who you might not be able to trust. The encounters with those who want to make you dance…the constant stream of jealous people who can’t wait for you to screw up so they can take you down.

The booze. The drugs. The boredom. The need to be validated. The fear of failure. The constant pressure to keep moving, keep improving, keep creating. It can be crushing. Some are able to channel it into their comedy, finding solace in the exposure. Others let it build and gnaw and fester until they are incapable of succeeding…or living.

Those who only know the megastars could never imagine this; how could millionaires like Jerry Seinfeld or Jeff Dunham or Larry The Cable Guy feel pressure? But those who delve into the art and know every club comic and struggling performer often see a different story, as those genuine career breaking opportunities are few and far between; the daily reality is a much harsher grind.

I came across the Comedy Hall of Fame website featuring a wealth of short clips from interviews with comedians. So far I’ve watched a few – Jim Norton, Colin Quinn, Dave Attell– but I’ve seen enough to highly recommend it.

I also came across this naked and telling interview with Giraldo.

In my perfect world, these creative people would get far more exposure and fame, but our society seems fixated on celebretards. Comedians, more than ever, have a responsibility to hold society up and make us look at it, and we are blessed that so many do it so well. We are also cursed that so many leave us so soon.

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WTF Turns 100

Congratulations to Marc Maron – tomorrow will mark the one hundredth episode of his brilliant WTF podcast. Since September 2009, like clockwork, these hours of self-analysis, penetrating interviews and social observation keep popping out twice a week like gold.

The WTF Podcast page

The very first episode featured the Roastmaster General himself, Jeff Ross, and the array of guests he’s welcomed is staggering. Patton Oswalt, David Feldman, Maria Bamford, Jim Norton, Robin Williams, Dave Attell, Sarah Silverman, Doug Stanhope, Andy Kindler…he’s quietly assembled a library of audio documents that any serious comedy lover should savor.

And Maron, beyond being incredibly funny in his own right, has proven to be an incisive interviewer who is unafraid to broach sensitive topics (and yes, sometimes with a personal edge). Some of my favorites included a frank discussion of race with Chicago comic Dwayne Kennedy and some gutsy exchanges with two popular but controversial comedians accused of joke thievery (Dane Cook and Carlos Mencia).

Although many are recorded in his garage studio, Maron has taken WTF on the road and has even filmed a pilot for that will hopefully be picked up as a series. Not only will it bring in some welcome funding, but the show and its brilliant guests will get much-needed exposure to the vast majority of people who don’t even know the show exists, let alone where to find it. Surely there has to be room in the vast cable landscape for intelligent discourse?

For now, I’m just thankful that Maron, Bill Burr, Kevin Pollack and so many others have adopted the format and put this out there for free. With literally hundreds of hours of these shows available, there will never be another boring car ride. Ever.

Congratulations, Mark! Please try to enjoy the moment.

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I Still Miss Tough Crowd

Seven years ago tonight, Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn made its official series debut on Comedy Central (a short test run of the show aired in 2002). A round-table discussion featuring four stand-up comics and host Colin Quinn, Tough Crowd‘s scope was everything and anything – race, religion, politics, current events, celebretards and whatever else the writers and the producers found chat-worthy. Issues would be raised and covered, sometimes a brief skit was included and then some bizarre audience participation games and/or final summaries from the comics would close the show.

It was fast and loose, and although the panelists had an idea of what the topics would be, it was anything but scripted. More often than not the comics would launch into tirades at each other, especially if a joke bombed (as it often would) or someone pandered to the studio audience for an applause break (a mortal sin for the regulars and an excuse for a verbal beat down). And by regulars I mean the most frequent panelists who cycled in and out; it seemed as if at least two of them were on every program. Quinn assembled a veritable All-Star team of cutting-edge comics who were quick on their feet, sarcastic and fearless; that they were also friends made the viewer a fly on the wall in a raucous no-holds-barred bullshit session.

Regulars included comedians Nick DiPaolo, Greg Giraldo, Judy Gold, Jim Norton, Patrice O’Neal, Keith Robinson and Rich Vos. Other frequent guest comics included Dave Attell, Todd Barry, Lewis Black, Billy Burr, Louis C.K., Jim David, Marc Maron and Greg Proops among many, many of the top names that sat in on the madness. It seems like everyone sat in at least once – George Carlin, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Robert Klein…you just weren’t seeing that many amazing comedians that frequently anywhere on television at the time, let alone that informally.

For those not used to him, Quinn seemingly bumbled his way through cue cards and stage directions, but Colin’s style had always been to keep moving forward, even if he ran himself over in the process. And Quinn always insisted that the blown gags, the awkward silences, the comics talking over each other remained in the broadcast, warts and all. Above all, Quinn wanted honesty, and although it was unlike anything else on television and certainly not for everyone, it was real.

Although the panelists did try to score points against each other, and it did give them a chance to work in some topical material, there were several moments when a controversial discussion turned fascinatingly serious and animated. Of course, they drove the car into the brick wall on occasion, too, and that was half the fun.

But soon Comedy Central seemed to stop promoting the show, and whether it was a battle to tighten the structure of the show (no way would Quinn ever do that) or the argumentative nature of the program not fitting in with The Big Picture remains unclear. But they let it die; by the end of 2004 it was over. Comedy Central was having great success with Dave Chappelle, but everything they tried to fill the Tough Crowd slot with – Blue Collar Comedy, Adam Carolla, Graham Norton – died quickly. Every time they come up with a Jeff Dunham Show and it sinks like a stone, I figure it’s just karma biting them in the ass.

Laurie Kilmartin was one of the writers. Her thoughts here.

Many current shows now use the same format – Bill Maher has three guests who discuss issues, but he has both the freedom of language and the restriction of audience that HBO brings. Chelsea Lately has two segments where the host (Chelsea Handler)  riffs on a news item and then has three guest comics pile on (albeit far tamer than Tough Crowd). and now we have the excremental Marriage Ref, which combines the host/panel format with reality television into a train wreck of a program.

There are dozens of Comedy Central products available and a humongous video library online, but Tough Crowd has been buried like a bad habit. No DVD. No reunion special. No re-airing of over two hundred episodes. On that network, Tough Crowd is forgotten.

But not to the fans. It lives and breathes in the hearts of anyone who loved the show.  And so tonight I tip my hat to Colin and Greg and Nick and Jim and Keith and Judy and Patrice and Rich…and all the writers, staffers and producers who had the brains and the hearts and the balls to make controversy entertaining every night.

Here’s hoping Comedy Central does the right thing – even if only to make some money – and makes those shows available again. In a universe where According To Jim stays on the air for eight seasons, surely Tough Crowd fans can be thrown a bone?

Best of Tough Crowd, Part One

Best of Tough Crowd, Part Two

Wiki site

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