Tag Archives: Dave Chappelle

T.G.I.F. – Ten Stress Relievers

Holiday time is stressful for a lot of people. Between shopping in a dubious economy, self-assessing at year’s end and preparing to start all over again on the first of January, it’s no wonder that people start snapping. Hey,cheer up – if the Mayans are right, you don’t have to fret much longer.

But what the hell – I could use a good laugh today. Couldn’t you?

So here are Ten Stress Relievers; quick YouTube comic clips to give your brain a quick reboot. (Headphones only if you’re at work.) I’m leading off with Auggie Smith, whose new album is incredible go get it now!

01) Auggie Smith Obama and the Oil Spill

02) Bill BurrNothing But Muffins

03) Louis CK Technical High School

04) Nick Griffin We Have No Patience

05) Paul F. TompkinsAnne Murray

06) Josh Sneed Moron Sales Clerk

07) Dave ChappelleMan Rape

08) Maria Bamford Crazy Office

09) Darren Frost Jenna Jameson and Miley Cyrus

10) Bob Biggerstaff The Self Checkout Hired Me

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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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T.G.I.F. – Ten More Impressions

 

Matt Damon as  Matthew McConaughey.

A contestant on Next Big Thing nailing  Al Pacino.

Joe Alaskey as Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Don Knotts, Alfred Hitchcock, Walter Brennan and Peter Lorre.

Barry Mitchell does Woody Allen.

Another mystery guy channeling  Christopher Walken, Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro and Jack Nicholson.

Jim Carrey as David Caruso in CSI Miami.

Dre Parker doing Dave Chappelle, Bernie Mac and Damon Wayans.

Another anonymous YouTuber imitating Gilbert Gottfried.

Ray Ray in a skit as Regis Philbin and Owen Wilson.

Rob Magnotti as Ray Romano, Brad Garrett, Michael Richards, Bill Cosby, Dudley Moore, Paulie Walnuts, Nicolas Cage, Al Pacino and John Travolta.

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Too Fat To Fish

Boats everywhere breathe a sigh of relief.

Boats everywhere breathe a sigh of relief.

Summer reading – uncomplicated, light fare, books you can doze off in the middle of and pick up again on the wrong page and nobody cares. Perfect time for most books about musicians and actors and comics, because with few exceptions you can blow through them in a sitting. Depends on how interesting the subject is. Also depends on how talented the ghostwriter or co-writer is. Artie Lange seemed to fit the bill, especially since the #1 bestseller from last Fall was now available in paperback. Too Fat To Fish is a decent read, breezy enough to enjoy and written conversationally so even his most challenged zealot can grasp the gist of it.

I’m not a regular Howard Stern listener, but I’m familiar with a lot of Artie’s  other work and he can be a funny guy. He’s got the John Belushi schlub thing down pat when he wants to, and anyone who can make a film like Beer League is okay by me. The proof is out there – MAD TV, Dirty Work, It’s The Whisky Talkin’, even bit parts on shows like Rescue Me. Artie Lange has charisma, although often it’s train wreck charisma – but either way he’s not slipping off your radar once he’s on.

Artie’s book skips through events in his life, starting in his childhood and his determination to make it as a ballplayer or a comic. A tragic accident paralyzed his Dad, whom Artie worshipped, and he ties a lot of his recklessness and problems to the aftermath of his father’s death, although ultimately the same event made him rededicate himself to making a mark in the entertainment world. He succeeded quickly as one of the charter cast members of MAD TV but was in over his head from the start, although castmates Orlando Jones and David Herman (later the hilarious Michael Bolton in Office Space) bailed him out repeatedly, first saving his job and later his life.

Those looking for stories of excess and debauchery will fins plenty here, from the “pig story” and rampant dug and alcohol binges to the networks throwing development money around like Johnny Appleseed with little or no hope of valuable return. Lange is pretty honest about how many times his screw ups affected dozens of people, and the frequency of public apologies to those he is no longer in touch with are both heartfelt and sad. As each chapter unfolds you’re certain that this, finally, is the redemption coming along, but all it does is blow up yet another bridge. Few have gone through Lange’s orbit unscathed, and Artie doesn’t deflect the blame.

Mostly Artie comes off like a guy who got too much too soon, blew it, miraculously got it back. He was emotional recalling the honor of performing for the troops. His family is still on a pedastel, including his late father whom he still reveres. He sounds truly grateful to those still willing to give him yet another chance, and I imagine there are days when he gets up in the morning and wants to pull a Dave Chappelle for his own sanity. Maybe catch a ballgame and share a private thought with his Dad. Maybe hang out with some of the legends he truly reveres – Don Rickles, Shelley Berman – and just soak it up a little. Maybe grow up a little.

But then he hits the studio where magic happens, where the most dynamic voice in the last quarter century of radio (no, idiot, it’s not you) welcomes him like family. Where the phones light up with armies of zealots. Zealots who will fill theatres and arenas and generate more money than ninety percent of his comedian peers will generate. Where he is surrounded by legions of fans who worship the very behavior that ran him into the tree the last time around. (Just be outrageous, Artie – drink, eat, curse, belch…be that derelict we love so much! Dance, monkey…dance!)

Fishing? Fuck fishing. Who needs fishing?

Hang in there, Artie. I hope those you ask for forgiveness do so. I hope those who you ask to come back to your life do so. And I hope the second time around you pay attention to the Norm MacDonalds and Howard Sterns and Dave Attells and learn how to walk that line between caricature and character. You’re still a pup, Artie – I hope we haven’t seen your best yet. I hope you don’t take the easy road down and out.

P.S. – Artie…park that car, ok? You can afford a driver by now.

Artie Lange’s world.

Artie wiki.

Artie’s MySpace site

MAD TV, R.I.P.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Irreverent Laughs

Feeling a bit irreverent and acerbic today, and I could really go off on organized religion, and celebretards, and gullible people and mind contol and politics.

But why not leave that to the professionals?

 Life is short. Laugh every day.

comedy mask

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T.G.I.F. – Ten More Laughs

 This week a little cheating – a couple of the clips feature multiple performers and as usual I can’t count to ten. Sad to think that Sather, Hedberg and Jeni are no longer with us; sadder to realize that two were suicides and the third might have been. Every one of these guys has made me laugh so hard that fluids tried to escape my body against my will. Enjoy!

comedy mask

Dave Chappelle doesn’t like Sesame Street very much.

The late Drake Sather was a great stand-up and comedy writer.

Norm MacDonald is effin brilliant.

So was the late Mitch Hedberg; this from the Just For Laughs Festival.

Another guy I miss, Richard Jeni, riffing on Michael Jackson.

Drew Carey, Ryan Stiles and Greg Proops on Who’s Line is it Anyway?

Banter between Colin Mochrie and Ryan doing the classic “Greatest Hits” ads.

Nick DiPaolo on drinking, driving and smoking.

Gilbert Gottfried can squeeze every last drop out of a funny line.

Craig Ferguson is funny on his show but his stand-up shows are killer.

Bonus tracks:

Eddie Izzard and the Evil Giraffe.

Jim Carrey channels David Caruso.

Life is short. Laugh every day!

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Stand Up Wit… Greg Giraldo

giraldo-roast

I’m not a big fan of Larry the Cable Guy– I don’t dislike him, I just don’t find his shtick hilariously funny – but if Comedy Central is going to roast someone, I’m watching. The Comedy Central roasts are modeled after the classic Friar’s Club events as well as the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts – as ribald (or more) as the former and as accessible as the latter. And although the honorees are fairly easy targets (Pamela Anderson, William Shatner, Flavor Flav, etc.) there are always a decent array of comedians taking their shots and a few performances that have you falling out of your chair. The roaster’s basic job is to take the podium, insult everyone else on the dais and finish by skewering the honoree. Few are better at this than Greg Giraldo

Giraldo is a law school graduate, which shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with his acerbic and cerebral wit. I never saw his short-lived television series Common Law, but I’ve seen enough projects centered around edgy comics  to know that network television in 1996 could never have handled what Giraldo was probably hoping to dish out. Outside of a couple of sound bytes (probably from his Howard Stern appearances) my first immersion into Giraldoworld was probably Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn, the late, great comic round table that aired on Comedy Central for two seasons. Quinn’s format was loose, a hot topic free-for-all where the bad jokes aired right alongside the good ones. Giraldo was among the most frequent guest panelists along with Jim Norton, Nick DiPaolo and Patrice O’Neal.

Tough Crowd was crude, rude and loud, and the comics often talked over and ganged up on one another; definitely not a show for everyone. But it was clear that Giraldo was fearless and funny, and had the show not been abruptly cancelled, it might have become his springboard to fame. After initially promoting the program, Comedy Central turned its back on it; one wonders what would have happened had the network spent even a fraction of the dollars it threw at Dave Chappelle, and later, Carlos Mencia. Giraldo was eventually offered his own show which didn’t make it to air, and later hosted Friday Night Stand-Up (later Stand-Up Nation) which allowed him to get a few short bits in-between recorded broadcasts of comedy specials on Comedy Central. These days you’ll find him guesting on the aforementioned roasts, appearing as (irony alert) a lawyer on Root of All Evil, or a popular guest on the late night talk show circuit. His two half-hour comedy specials are must-sees and air frequently on cable.

Giraldo continues to be one of the most underrated comics in the business; despite his success on television and as a live performer, he doesn’t get the respect or the high profile he deserves. I don’t understand why – he’s hysterically funny, smart as a whip and lightning fast on his feet.  Late in 2006 he finally released his first comedy CD titled Good Day To Cross A River. The hilarious live show features many of his best classic bits along with a slew of (then) newer material. It’s a perfect testament to his performance style; sharp social observance (Bruce, Carlin) tempered more by incredulous exasperation than anger (Lewis Black without the foaming mouth). I highly recommend that you buy a copy of this…you’ll be quoting lines from this album for a long time.

And Greg, it’s time for a new one!

"You ain't from around here, are ya boy?"

"You ain't from around here, are ya boy?"

Giraldo roasting Cheech and Chong (along with TCM‘s Robert Osbourne and Tommy Chong’s wife). “Cheech met Chong in Canada where Cheech went to avoid the draft. Wow…you’re the first Mexican ever to leave the country illegally….”

Giraldo dissects Larry the Cable Guy. “You’ve been inside more farm animals than Purina!”

The classic LazyBoy collaboration, “Underwear Goes Inside The Pants“.

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