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Best Comedy DVDs of 2010: #10, #9

Today starts the countdown of the ten best comedy DVDs of 2010…

#10) Aziz Ansari: Intimate Moments For A Sensual Evening

Aziz Ansari’s high-energy performance largely centers around him being famous, and you…well, not so much. But we like his self-centered Tom Haverford character on Parks and Recreation because under all that obnoxious pretense, he truly does have a big heart. In the same way, Ansari’s stage persona just comes off like the friend of yours who lucked into something good, but is still cool enough to hang with you anyway.

The best comedy comes from reality, and while Aziz might embellish a few bits about Kanye West or R. Kelly, they’re that much funnier because they’re totally believable coming from a guy whose career has just blown up. Ditto the best parts of his set when he’s riffing about his nephew Darwish and cousin Harris; while the anecdotes are pretty hilarious, this is probably a normal day in the real life of a young comic who is famous. Ansari sounds pretty grounded, unlike Raaaaaaaandy (his shock comic character from Funny People) who hopefully will not become the more famous of the two. (Comedy Central Records)

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#9) Orny Adams: Takes The Third

Like the bastard love child of Jerry Seinfeld (physical appearance and joke structure) and Denis Leary (intolerant raging at incompetence), Orny Adams is just plain fed up. Technology, fat kids, bad drivers, marriage, customer service…it’s all a conspiracy to drive us crazy. Like Path Of Most Resistance, his prior DVD, his topics are ordinary but his take on them is very funny. He’s outraged, but self-deprecating, like a slightly saner Lewis Black; and despite the title, it is social outrage, not political.

Impressively, the entire program is cut from one performance. Besides the hour-long set, the DVD includes a few minutes of additional onstage and backstage footage, largely a mutual love letter to and from his fans. Adams might not be a huge name but he’s got a solid routine and charm to burn. And if this flames out and, as he fears, he’s selling cars this time next year, at least those who saw him as his own worst enemy in the film Comedian will know that he finally figured it out. (Image Entertainment)

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The countdown continues tomorrow with #8 and #7

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Award Weekend Redux

The Hurt Locker. And James Cameron was shoved into it.

Lame. Tame. And almost predictable

That’s the story of Award Weekend, where despite the stellar comedic talents of Eddie Izzard, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, jokes fell flatter than a pancake. Or in other words, as tired as that analogy. No, this isn’t sour grapes because I only went 6-for-10 on my predictions (more on that later) but it’s a little sad when the biggest event of the film year isn’t…well, big

First, the 82nd Annual Academy Awards 

I watched the show with my daughter; she Tweeted while I scribbled notes on the back of a nominee ballot. From her laughter, it seemed like the jokes on Twitter were funnier than the ones on the telecast. 

At the end of the show I used the power of my mind to read James Cameron‘s thoughts… “I wonder how drunk I can get for two billion dollars?” (Which at least will clear his mind of his prior thought – “Why did I dump Kathryn Bigelow to hook up with Skeletor?“) 

I start to wonder whether the Oscar crew does know who’s going to win when I see them do things like have Barbara Streisand present the Best Director Award; how ironic that she didn’t win for Yentl, yet gets to be part of the breakthrough moment. (How uncomfortable a comment would she have dared utter if Bigelow lost? And if Lee Daniels had won…would Spike Lee be pissed that he was snubbed for that sweet presenter slot?) When Streisand tried to milk the moment by stating “the time has come“, poor Daniels looked like Stephen Boyd during the climactic scene from The Oscar.

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Mo’Nique gave an awesome performance and deservedly took home the award (why are people still shocked that stand-up comics can be great dramatic actors?) and I appreciate that she wore a blue dress and flower in her hair to match Hattie McDaniel. But when the speeches started flowing about following in Hattie’s footsteps and how after so many years it was time, I so wanted to slip her a note to remind her that Halle Berry already cashed that chip several years ago

How ironic that Chris Pine had to introduce a groundbreaking science fiction film, when Star Trek wasn’t even nominated after the category was expanded to ten movies? 

After watching the music from Crazy Heart win so many awards, I realize just how much better it would if Steven Bruton was still around. 

Did Robert Downey Jr. actually pronounce the word specificity? Proof positive that his rehab problems are behind him. Finally a moment of humor as he and Tina Fey exchanged writer/actor barbs, but he won by calling writers “sickly little mole people” (a line, of course,  that has Tina Fey’s hand print all over it). 

Nice John Hughes tribute until Judd Nelson creeped me out visually with his almost-Downey look. Molly Ringwald would have scared me worse, but she was brought out previously, and slower. 

Not to kick a dog when it’s down, but how does a move that is about eighty percent animated win for Best Cinematography? Just sayin’. 

Ever want to run to see a movie two seconds into the trailer? Must, must, must go see Logorama ASAP. And how funny was Nicolas Schmerkin‘s acceptance speech thanking his “three thousand unofficial sponsors” and saying “no logos were harmed in the making of this film”? Then closes with a knockout punch: “It took, like, six years to make this sixteen minutes, so I hope to come back here with a long feature film, in about…thirty-six years.”  So a Frenchman with a thick accent not only has better comic timing than our hosts – but better writers, too? 

And why was Kanye West dressed up like a fat drunk woman in a bad Snuggie when he interrupted poor Roger Ross Wilson‘s acceptance speech for Best Documentary Short? (Yes, I know it wasn’t Kanye, but to mention the real name of that boorish cow would only extend her Warholian fifteen minutes. I’m hoping that the Japanese fishermen from The Cove watched the exchange, mistook her for a dolphin, and fileted the bitch backstage.) 

Better hosts would have jumped on that horribly rude moment and ridden it like a pony for the rest of the night. Billy Crystal would, and I know that Ricky Gervais would have had a field day. Are you telling me no one in that stable of writers could come up with a smack-down? Maybe they should have been tweeting for help

Ben Stiller needs to be involved in every awards show. And while James Cameron seemed to be grimacing like Stiller somehow didn’t have the Na’Vi language down perfectly, he should at least have appreciated Stiller’s close: “After I announce the winner I will stand as far away as possible so I don’t demean their moment of triumph“. (Seriously – how could Avatar not be nominated for Best Makeup? Hollywood really hates someone.) 

Star Trek won more Oscars than Avatar last night. Ouch

Was it me, or did the ceremony at the Governor’s Ball featuring Lauren Bacall and Roger Corman look like waaaay more fun that the main ceremony? The jokes were funnier and the tributes more sincere. 

Robin Williams, check. Testicle joke, check

Rude moment number two – The Costume Bitch starting off her acceptance speech by saying “I already have two of these” and then somehow getting more derogatory from there. Last. Nomination. Ever. 

My first thought upon seeing Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart come out to introduce the tribute to horror films: “Bite each other and die“. No montage is ever going to be perfect, but there were many startling omissions and a few (Edward Scissorhands??) that were head-shakingly out of place. Not to mention that the promo for Happy Town that aired during the commercial break looked scarier than anything in that clip reel. 

Sound Editing – any time we get to see more of The Dark Knight is OK by me. Tell me again how that movie did not even get nominated for Best Picture

In Memorium: I love James Taylor, but this is a tribute that deserves silence or a best a subtle orchestral score. Especially when you sing lyrics like “some are dead and some are living” as the montage of clips slides by. (What does James know that we don’t?) 

Late in the show I’m wondering whether Alec Baldwin is offstage yelling at his daughter’s voicemail, because it sure seemed like Steve Martin was soloing for almost an hour. 

Unfortunately for the producers, one of the highlights of the evening was shown during the commercial break. 

I finally aligned with the world of Twitter when I let out an audible “WTF?” when Dancing With No Stars came out to misinterpret the Best Score nominees. According to daughter Eli, that was the white-hot Tweet of the moment. (For the record, the biggest score in Oscar history was Adrien Brody bending Halle Berry over for a deep dive smooch at the 2003 ceremony.) 

More proof the writers don’t know a good joke, nor did audience: When El Secreto de sus Ojos won for Best Foreign Film, the producer opened with this gem: “”I want to thank the Academy for not considering Na’Vi a foreign language“. Dead silence. Come on, people! 

I get it, Sean Penn. You’re a rebel. Yawn

Best Actor and Best Actress gimmick: hate, hate, hate the one-on-one tributes to the nominees. Besides the fact that the show is already dreadfully long and the back story for each nominee has been rehashed a thousand times, what does the fact that this actor is a humanitarian or this actress is a good mother have to do with their performance? Or are you finally admitting, Hollywood, that it is about politics and favoritism rather than the best performance of the year? At least it produced a couple of good lines, thanks to Stanley Tucci and Tim Robbins (“It is Ted, isn’t it?“). 

No big shock on the four major acting awards. Jeff Bridges (has it really been almost forty years since his nomination for The Last Picture Show?) proved once again that The Dude abides. Sandra Bullock disappointed me by not getting all Sally Field on us and Christoph Waltz finally made an acceptance speech I could understand (his prior speeches sounded more like ideas for future Quentin Tarantino movies). 

I was surprised that Hollywood was able to ignore a movie that has already grossed two and a half billion dollars (and still selling) in favor of a movie that struggled to get financing, distribution and promotion and tackled a controversial subject. But I couldn’t be happier for director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal

Spirits? Many were served.

The less said about Friday’s 25th Annual Independent Spirit Awards, the better. Maybe it was the decision to move the event from a beach tent to…well, a tent in a parking lot. Maybe the booze started flowing earlier. But when Eddie Izzard bombs so badly that he has to start improvising with props and free-stlying in the audience to wake up the seated corpses, that’s a sad day for what used to be the most lively and raucous awards of them all. 

Then again, Izzard refused to let his “God is Dead” joke die, insisting on reviving it every time he came back on stage if for nothing else than to punish the audience. There were very few funny moments, but thankfully Will Arnett and Ed Helms saved the day when presenting the John Cassavetes Award, as did Ben Stiller’s speech and the clip reel of Roger Ebert viciously panning movies. (I was thrilled to see that Ebert was present for the event, as was the crowd that gave him an extended standing ovation.) 

Sorry, but Laura Dern being one of the original fourteen people present when the Independent Spirit Awards was founded makes me feel really old. If it was Bruce Dern, maybe I’d feel better. 

As for the winners, it was a big night for Precious. I’m sorry…I meant to say Precious Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire©®™ 

(Someone should tell the producers that every movie is based on something, which is why we have Original and Adapted screenplay nominations, but I guess that wasn’t good enough for the author. Or would that have screwed up the tie-in to Oprah’s Book Club?) 

Lynn Shelton wins for Humpday. Yes


And I was thrilled that Anvil won for Best Documentary, and anyone who has seen that movie – a real, live Spinal Tap – had to be moved when stunned band member Steve “Lips” Kudlow came back onstage and hugged the filmmaker, thanking him for changing his life. I still cannot believe that Anvil was not even nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar. 

And now it starts all over again! 

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Stand Up Wit…Aziz Ansari

He's the shorter one.

Aziz Ansari is on a roll. This week sees the release of his first stand-up CD  entitled Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening; the special of the same name premieres tonight at 10:00pm EST on Comedy Central.  

Ansari has been getting a lot of buzz recently thanks to a breakout year. His performance as club comic Raaaaaaaandy in the Adam Sandler / Judd Apatow film Funny People stole the show, and his name has peppered countless “comics to watch” lists. His success is no surprise to those familiar with his stand-up or his prior show Human Giant; audiences are attracted to his ability to be sharp-tongued and sympathetic at the same time.

And while his character on Parks and Recreation is on the surface a self-serving, skirt-chasing weasel, this season the writers have given him an opportunity to show that there is a heart underneath the bravado of Tom Haverford…and he nailed it. 

So I’m thrilled that Aziz is getting a highly promoted special and CD/DVD release, because Intimate Moments is really strong. His presentation is energetic and it’s clear the audience is having as much fun as he is and are fully on board even though most of the routines are the antithesis of one-liners or observational comedy. His stories center around personal experiences that sprout from his celebrity status but completely avoid ethnic pandering and self-worship. It’s Aziz lifting the curtain and saying to us “can you believe this shit?” as he riffs on Kanye West and R. Kelly, pranking his cousin Harris, redneck cruises, skanky reality shows,  and why Craigslist is even sicker than you thought. The upcoming DVD will have some bonus footage of Aziz as Raaaaaaaandy as well as a thirty minute show filmed at the UCB (Upright Citizen’s Brigade) Theatre from last November. 

Looks like the new year and new decade of comedy is off to a flying start; I have no qualms about tagging this one a Best of 2010 contender only two weeks into the year. 

Aziz Ansari website

Funny or Die Raaaaaaaandy mockumentary parts one, two and three

Where are those punk ass book jockeys?

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