Tag Archives: Howard Stern

Stand Up Wit…Pat Cooper

Pat Cooper is an angry guy.

Of course you know that; angry is Pat Cooper’s schtick. I’ve listened to him do variations on the angry Italian guy my whole life, and as an act, it’s pretty funny even if a one-note performance. But who knew he was this angry in real life…about everything?

Sure, Howard Stern listeners have heard him rant on about just about everything, including pot-shots at his own family. But damn, after reading  How Dare You Say How Dare Me, I’m starting to wonder who Pat does like. If there’s a theme to the book, it’s not letting anyone tell you what to do, even if that costs you your family, a shitload of money and some great career opportunities. But Cooper, approaching 82, is still working steadily and has done so for almost sixty years. He’s on to something.

Video: Friar’s Roast of Frank Pastore

I was hoping Cooper’s autobiography would be a treasure trove of anecdotes about show business and comedy; he’s only crossed paths with thousands of famous names over the years. But those which are more than passing references are few and far between – some with praise (Jerry Lewis, Sergio Franchi), and many who got on Pat’s bad side for one reason or another. Some borrowed money and didn’t return it. Some didn’t treat him with the respect he wanted. Some just landed opportunities he thought he deserved.

It’s a pretty bitter story, actually, with Pat constantly reminding people that he’s “a name act”. Usually when you have to do that, it’s not that true. It might have been more interesting to hear how other people felt about him and thought of him, but autobiographies are usually one-sided affairs.

Video: Drew Carey Roast

In fairness to Pat, he is and continues to be a huge draw in the showroom circuit, and he’s carved such a niche for himself that he’ll likely work until he keels over on the stage. Thousand of people will pay top dollar to see him and likely laugh their asses off, and when he gets invited to roast some celebrity I’m sure he’ll go off on them like clockwork. But those people would be advised to skip the book.

Biographies of comedians usually fall into two categories – informative and funny, and the best ones are both. This one, unfortunately, is neither. I didn’t really learn much about Cooper that I didn’t know already, and what I did learn wasn’t complimentary. Pat is a legendary comic; just ask him, he’ll tell you. Pat holds a grudge. Pat doesn’t suffer fools, whether waiters, actors, radio hosts or his own family. If there is an astounding fact in the book, it’s that he was married to one woman for so long.

Pat Cooper on Wikipedia

Pat Cooper website

Pat Cooper swag at Laugh.com

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Stand Up Wit…Rich Vos

File Rich Vos under the “how can Jeff Dunham be so famous but not this guy” category; a veteran club and theatre comic who combines a curmudgeon’s list of grievances with a sharp ability to work the room into the material. Those who have seen Vos rip someone a new one on Tough Crowd, the Cringe Humor shows or Opie and Anthony are well aware of his skill, any doubters will have their concerns laid to rest after hearing  Live In Philly.

Vos is a good enough storyteller that he can float out a couple of topics as frames and chum the water with a couple of prepared jokes, but his true skill is engaging the audience as participants and targets. Sure, some of the bullets are pre-loaded; a good comic will always be ready for a mismatched couple or the drunk who keeps talking long after you tossed them the spotlight. But it’s obvious that Vos lives for that first nibble on the fishing line, and once that bait is taken, he’s ruthless.

Material-wise, there’s no unique ground broken here. Customer service sucks, hotels and airlines suck, certain cities suck and no matter what your religion, race or gender, you probably suck, too. If you want a thumbnail sketch of Live In Philly, look no further than the title of track number six, “People Bother Me“; Vos expounds on being too old and too tired to put up with people’s bullshit anymore. In the process he’s not tiptoeing around gender, race or religion, and by the reaction of the audience, he’s tapping the right vein.

Video Clip: “Live At Gotham

The recording itself is a little thin, although once you jack the volume up it’s consistently listenable. The packaging is simple and direct and thankfully there are no bells and whistles – no funny songs, no extras, no gimmicks. You get the feeling that he just flipped on the recorder one night and let it roll, warts and all, which is very uncommon these days. Maybe that’s not great marketing, but that’s an honest performance you’re getting to hear.  Live In Philly is Rich Vos, stripped down, unfiltered – and it captures his appeal perfectly.

And if you have to ask where the CD was recorded…what hotel do you work at?

Rich Vos website

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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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Stand Up Wit…Joe Matarese

Only stupid people bring a knife to a gunfight

Only stupid people bring a knife to a gunfight

I’ve been at hundreds of concerts and club shows over the years, and am always amazed that people pay good money to see an artist and then spend the evening ignoring the act and talking loudly with their friends. Yelling over each others voices, cackling and gabbing and gossiping like they’re sitting around their apartment, oblivious to the fact that the rest of us paid good money to be entertained by a professional.

Some of these people are just stupid and don’t realize whet they’re doing. Others are rude and don’t care what they’re doing. Many are trying to call attention to themselves. And then there’s the interactive jerks – the ones who scream “Free Bird!” at the top of their lungs at every concert, or who yell out at a comedy club think they’re funnier than the professional comedian who is on stage. All of these dolts are hecklers, and in Dante’s Inferno there’s a special room for them in the circles of Hell, right between politicians and lobbyists, so they can hear mindless chirpy chatter for all eternity. (Boy, won’t they be surprised when they finally sober up!)

Bands can just play louder, but comedians are up there virtually naked – no guitar to throw, no wall of amps to drown out the idiocy, just a person with a microphone who’s basically had the gauntlet thrown down. If you  curl up and fold, the audience will probably eat you alive. Some comics ignore them, while others look at it as a god-given right to get medieval on their asses. Joe Matarese is clearly in the latter camp.

When A Comedian Attacks is, as advertised, “11 tracks of real hecklers being put in their place” and features a smorgasboard of the idiot types above – the clueless talkers, the rude commenters and the drunks who decide that the pairing of alcohol and a limited vocabulary is a good battle plan. Tracks range from fairly funny to absolutely cringe-inducing as Matarese – who admits he has to react – pounces on the usually deserving idiot. A very dim guy questions whether a joke is based upon a true story…in the middle of the joke! A table of English tourists argue with each other when the check arrives at their table.  Drunk guys try to defend their drunker girlfriends. It’s all like chum to a shark, albeit a well prepared shark with a full arsenal. On Shark Week the mantra is “the best shark repellent is humans using their head“. Clearly these hecklers didn’t get the message.

My favorite clip might be the private party gig where a fellow comic is sitting right by the microphone as Joe loses it. He got a double bonus, laughing at both the idiots in the room and his friend onstage coming more unglued by the minute. Matarese admits that most comedians secretly love watching other comics go mental; he even thanks Bill Burr in the credits for legitimizing the idea of this CD in the first place. Joe introduces each clip with a brief set-up about what led up to the snapping point which successfully paints the picture for the listener. Priceless!

I first saw Joe Matarese on Comedy Central and fell apart; his special is hilarious. A veteran of the comedy festival and club scene, he’s a frequent guest on Howard Stern and the late night talk shows. Grab this CD and enjoy the carnage, and if you’re interested in his more conventional performance material, check out his two other CDs (Quiet Please and Fixing Joe). Both are now on my must-get list; a brand new CD should be coming along later this year as well.

Joe’s debut on David Letterman.

Here’s Joe’s website where you can pick up CDs, check tour dates and watch more clips.

Joe’s MySpace site for more clips and information.

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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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