Tag Archives: Joan Rivers

Louie

Shameless? More like fearless.

So I’ve been catching up on life after the sabbatical, and given the need to lift the spirits I opted to start with the saved episodes of Louie and Wilfred. There is too much to see and not enough time, and since I had been fairly current with both shows before the departure, they seemed like the logical places to start. Wilfred, of course, did not disappoint – still riotously funny and as black a comedy as we’re likely to get on television this year.

But Louie is playing at another level.

Where last year’s shows had been irreverent and original, the second season of Louie is exponentially greater. Not only has Louis CK become a better actor – partially because his character is so much richer – but the writing has been sharper, darker, and yes, fearless. He’s always been able to write himself as the central figure in uncomfortable situations, but now he is not only scripting extended guest roles into the mix, he’s getting compelling performances from fellow comedians.

Doug Stanhope’s recent turn as a bitter and despondent road comic was outstanding, as he skewered the celebrity of mass appeal comedians while reaching some poignant conclusions about his own life. So too was the performance from Joan Rivers, playing herself, chastising Louie on his lack of work ethic and his inability to overcome insecurity. Although Stanhope’s “Eddie” was a fictional character, he inhabited it with much of his own persona; he was the yang to Rivers’ yin as polar opposites on the comedy hierarchy.

But the jaw-dropping moment had to be Dane Cook, who Louis humbles himself to meet backstage at a gig hoping to score some Lady Gaga tickets for his daughters (the logic is that Gaga and Cook share an agent). In the scene, Cook – who has long been accused of ripping off jokes from Louis CK in real life – is bitter towards TV Louie for not coming out in his defense. Louie explains that although he didn’t think Cook stole the jokes on purpose, he likely knew that they had come from somewhere else and didn’t really stop himself, either. TV Cook is clearly angered by the lingering accusations, and amazed that Louie would still put himself through the humiliation just to get the tickets, but both men get to speak their piece without either really backing down.

About halfway through this exchange, I realized that I was watching two people who didn’t want to have this conversation in public actually have this conversation in public, albeit within the framework of a script. As clever as it was for Louis the writer, it was an equally ballsy move by Cook to participate.

And that’s just one part of one episode. Louie will not likely win the award for best comedy or best drama, but right now it just might be both.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Film/TV, Reviews

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Film/TV

(T)rump Roast

What do Pamela Anderson, David Hasselhoff and Donald Trump have in common?

A. They are dumb blondes…even if it’s fake blond.

B. Their 15 minutes expired 15 years ago.

C. They are more famous for being famous than for actual worthy accomplishments.

D. They are how low the bar has sunk for “celebrities” at Comedy Central Roasts.

E. All of the above.

Which doesn’t mean that I’m not tuning in to watch; when truly funny people like Anthony Jeselnik and Whitney Cummings are going to savage easy targets, I’m game. But not only has the roastee gone down hill, but the dais now features the brain-dead (The Situation) and the living dead (Larry King) where giants one sat. Sadly, ace roaster Greg Giraldo is no longer with us, but where is Nick DiPaolo? Where is Colin Quinn? Where is Norm MacDonald? Where is…oh wait, I know where Gilbert Gottfried is

Maybe they were busy. Maybe they didn’t want to go slumming. But here’s how The Comedy Central Roast of Donald Trump did go…

I think Seth MacFarlane is a perfect host; he’s got a great voice and really knows how to deliver a joke. Even if they’re ones he didn’t write, like perhaps “If his plan is to fire everyone he’s two years too late” or “He has such a big ego, when he bangs a supermodel he closes his eyes and imagines he’s jerking off.” With David Feldman and Jesse Joyce writing copy, at least there were good zingers for those qualified to deliver them. He’s also unafraid to go there, like feigning retardation while talking to the Jersey Shore mook.

Of course that was half the problem – the dais. Larry King was horrible, stumbling through lines he looked like he was seeing for the first time, and giggling at every one with that pedophile heh-heh-heh that is beyond creepy. “Lisa Lumpa Jelly“, he snarked…wow. But he seemed like Rodney Dangerfield next to the Ab Man (I’m not typing his name again), who was so inept that the crowd either booed or sat in total silence until Jeffrey Ross had to go up to the podium and beg for mercy. Granted, he’s not a comedian…but then why the fuck is he up there trying to be one? Is he banging Trump’s daughter? The Proactiv commercial during the break was funnier.

Marlee Matlin played the role of the proper girl who gets filthy-mouthed for the event; this is now a staple of every roast. And she was a good sport, and funny – using an interpreter to speak for her (when the camera picked him up earlier, I thought he was a Barack Obama look-alike who was going to engage in a skit with Trump!). But when he quit in mock exasperation, Gilbert Gottfried came out to take his place and got a huge ovation before tearing the room a new one. Obviously filmed before the Tsunami Twitter incident, Gilbert proved that nothing was ever sacred by saying Trump had defiled New York so much he is known as the “twentieth terrorist“.

Lisa Lampanelli’s “I love the brothers” routine is beyond tired but she did get off a couple of good lines. To Trump about his hair: “What do you have to say to a barber to get that haircut? I fucked your daughter?Snoop Dogg, always cool, got off a keeper when he riffed on Trump running for President by saying if he won it wouldn’t be the first time he kicked a black family out of their house. More consistently solid was Whitney Cummings, who peppered the stage with jabs on her first few jokes but then finished in a flurry of uppercuts and right crosses. By comparison, she had the biggest balls on the stage.

The clear winners of the evening were Jeffrey Ross and Anthony Jeselnik. Great to see Ross absolutely kill; he had the line of the night (to Trump: “Are you having a good time? Yeah? Tell your face…“). And Jeselnik deadpanned his way through one winner after another, from the simply clever (“the sense of humor to embarrass yourself on Saturday Night Live…and the casino business“) to the brilliantly subversive (“Marlee Matlin…are you even listening to me?”).

Theer were a few heartfelt mentions about Greg Giraldo, and he was sorely missed, although Jeselnik scored well enough to be considered for the role of roast assassinOr maybe they can feature Jesse Joyce, Giraldo’s writing partner and a hilarious dude in his own right (who also wrote some of the better lines on this show). Get some fresh blood up on the dais – quick thinkers with a ruthless streak like Joe DeRosa, Joe Materese and Kurt Metzger. You are filming this in New York, right? I hear some comics hang out there.

Hopefully this will wind up on DVD where some of the funnier or more cringe-worthy elements can be seen in all their glory. Most of the shows have been available, with few exceptions – the Joan Rivers set is a notable omission. Too bad – there were some tremendous punches thrown at her, and she returned hellfire. Much more impressive than Trump reading the teleprompter.

And to borrow a line from Mr. Ross…”Greg Giraldo, roast in peace.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Film/TV, Reviews

T.G.I.F. – Ten Tweety Birds

Six months have passed since my last Tweet, so I am wondering if I should blast out another message. Since I post every day, I guess I don’t see the need to tell people that they should stop by, since twenty-six months of daily posts should be enough to subtly infer that you might want to stop by regularly. I mean, after all, I’m trying to attract readers and thinkers, not someone with the attention span of a gnat on fire.

I really don’t want to waste anyone’s time telling them daily what the daily post is about – you can sign up for email or use an RSS feed for that. and frankly, I don’t think you’d really care that I ate a really great cheeseburger or that I went to a movie in a theatre for the first time in four months or that Mountain Dew still tastes like dog piss, or at least how I imagine dog piss would taste, not having actually sampled the nectar first hand.

But I do occasionally check in on some comedians who Tweet, and for them, the recent Oscar broadcast was like shooting fish in a barrell. I’ve had a long week, so let’s keep it light with Ten Tweeters you should check out – at least for their Oscar wit! Have a great weekend!

(01) – Norm MacDonaldBy the time the dead guy montage starts, Kirk Douglas will be in it

(02) – Nick KrollStutter is the new retard

(03) – Bill MaherIf you’re black and want to make it in Hollywood you better be a swan

(04) – Joan Rivers The smart nominees get Botox injections before the Academy Awards so if they lose, we won’t see the rage lurking behind their frozen faces.”

(05) – Chelsea Peretti I know nothing about fashion but I wanna say shoulder cut-outs were a miscalc

(06) – Drew Carey To everyone disappointed in last nights Oscars: Serves you right for watching in the first place.”

(07) – Moshe Kasher Wow Franco is ruining lines that were pre ruined by the writers.”

(08) – Natasha Leggero Anyone know what corporation is shoving Anne Hathaway down our throats?”

(09) – Patton Oswalt  Whoever hugs Reese is gonna slit their jugular on her jawbone…”

(10) – Whitney Cummings When did Gwyneth Paltrow become the Sarah Palin of country music?

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Editorials, Film/TV

Stand Up Wit…Joan Rivers

I finally got to see the new Joan Rivers documentary, A Piece Of Work. While not a perfectly objective film – key people involved are her friends and she had suggestive input to the content – it paints what I believe to be a fairly honest picture of a driven artist who won’t take her hand off the throttle. Part of that drive is to maintain control and keep the cash flow coming in. Part of it is the fear that not doing so would make her irrelevant…but then she’s been fighting that battle since the beginning.

Since I’ve always known her as a comic first and foremost, I’m not certain just how many people perceive her more as the QVC hustler, the red carpet maniac or the poster child for plastic surgery. None of those are complimentary, but if  we learn anything from A Piece of Work it is that Joan will do just about anything for a paycheck. Of course, she sees it for what it is – a paycheck – and in fact the film opens with a shockingly vulgar routine about her daughter passing up just such an opportunity.

Through a combination of photos, clips and footage we get a high level overview of her career – the struggle to get started, the star-making opportunity with Johnny Carson (and the backlash when she launched her own show at Fox); her difficulties with and love for her family and how those ties both helped and hurt her chances. This isn’t a life arc, it was filmed as a year in the life, with anecdotes. While it’s done well, I was hoping for more focus on the backstory; certainly there are hundreds of people who could have provided recollections and insight. We do get a few talking heads, from Don Rickles and Kathy Griffin to staff and management people. Why so few?

Video: Official Movie Trailer

You’ll probably learn more about Joan Rivers by reading her books, but that’s her window. The documentarians neither canonize nor attack her, which allow you to see her insecurities as exactly what they are – fuel for the fire. Comedians have to deal with rejection every time they walk on stage. Rivers has dealt with so much throughout her life that it’s amazing she’s still in there punching. But then you see her take the stage, and it’s as if an appliance was suddenly plugged into a socket. She’s fearless and tireless, but most importantly, she’s funny.

Rivers is 77 years old, but her schedule would exhaust a soccer mom half her age. Her recent victory on Donald Trump’s boardroom reality show gave her some extensive network visibility, and a recent announcement has her starting a reality show with her daughter and grandson. This movie was nominated for Best Documentary by the Broadcast Critics and if the Academy follows suit with an Oscar nod, that’s another a couple of months of top rung publicity. There are some painful moments in the film dealing with loneliness and rejection (both personally and professionally); it would be nice to see her get the recognition she deserves and have her name once again be primarily associated with comedy.

Go see the film – but also go see the legend herself.

Official website for the film

Joan Rivers’ official website

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Film/TV, Reviews

Golden Globe and BCFA Nominations

Who knew The Tourist was a comedy?

That’s right, it isn’t – it’s a thriller. But that didn’t stop the Hollywood Foreign Press Association from nominating their man-crush, Johnny Depp, as Best Actor in a Comedy for his role in the film.

(Maybe the movie is so bad it was laughable?)

At least they got some things right, like finally nominating Katey Sagal for her career-best performance in Sons Of Anarchy (although the show itself and the rest of the cast got blanked) and remembering to include Mark Wahlberg as a nominee for The Fighter. The Broadcast Film Critics didn’t, even when nominating the film, screenplay and the rest of the principal cast (individually and as Best Ensemble!) and despite many of the categories being expanded to six nominees. Really? Were there that many ties?

The 16th annual Broadcast Film Critics awards, announced yesterday, will be presented on January 14th. Two of the toughest categories will be Best Supporting Actor (Jeremy Renner and Christain Bale likely battling it out) and Best Documentary, where excellent entries range from the overdue and  heartfelt Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work to the somber subjects of Restrepo and The Tillman Story.

The 68th annual Golden Globe awards, announced this morning, will be presented on January 16th. Glad to see that Laura Linney got some props for The Big C as well as Kevin Spacey for his work in Casino Jack. But way, way too many oversights and mistakes for my tastes.

The Screen Actors Guild nominees will be announced Thursday.

Leave a comment

Filed under Editorials, Film/TV

Stand Up Wit…The 100 Best?

When I first posted this blog almost two years ago, I added the bulk of the content on the tabbed sections, which are more static than the main page. No need to update my essay on comedy that often, for example. It’s a pretty straightforward piece about how I got interested in stand-up, some of the classics who knocked my socks off and where my tendencies and loyalties lie. The main thrust of the piece is that most people take comedy for granted and settle for the lowest common denominator, largely because they are not exposed to the more unique and daring comedians unless they make an effort to seek them out. And not many people look for things they don’t know exist.

Part of that essay was a link to Comedy Central’s list of the Top 100 Stand-Up Comedians of all time, a 2004 ranking that like most lists is jammed with hits and misses. Hard to argue with a top three of Richard Pryor, George Carlin and Lenny Bruce, but when Louis CK is sitting at #98 and Ricky Gervais doesn’t even make the list, it’s time for an update. The report was assembled by Comedy Central staff and management polling a group of comedians, although some accused the network of goosing up the ratings of some comics who had product on the label and/or specials on the network. (That logic fails to explain Freddie Prinze at a lofty #49, though.)

Across the Big Pond, of course, things are a bit different – many of their great comics are complete unknowns over here, and there are several panel shows that provide them an opportunity to become more familiar to the audience. And the UK list was voted upon by the public, so it tends to skew way younger and more mainstream, although even the general public proves they appreciated Bill Hicks more than we did. (I thought  we learned that lesson with Jimi Hendrix…) Here’s the new top ten:

1 BILLY CONNOLLY
2 RICHARD PRYOR
3 RICKY GERVAIS
4 BILL HICKS
5 EDDIE IZZARD
6 PETER KAY
7 BILL BAILEY
8 CHRIS ROCK
9 MICHAEL MCINTYRE
10 VICTORIA WOOD

In a word…wow.

 There were a lot of changes between the 2007 and 2010 lists and some of them are completely laughable. I can understand the increase in popularity for people like Sean Lock and especially Stewart Lee, but Lee Mack and Alan Carr just blew by too many people for my taste. And Michael McIntrye goes from nowhere to the 9th greatest standup in history? But George Burns falls off the list? Some veterans made upward moves, although still vastly underrated (Bill Cosby, George Carlin) while others (Joan Rivers, Lenny Bruce) took a serious tumble. Ah, those silly gits.

Here’s the updated 2010 list. Happy grumbling!



Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Editorials, Film/TV, Reviews