Tag Archives: Larry the Cable Guy

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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Stand Up Wit…Jon Reep

...but lock the screen door.

...but lock the screen door.

Comedian  Jon Reep won the fifth season of Last Comic Standing, but like me, you probably know him better as the redneck hillbilly in a recent series of Dodge commercials. I was amazed that a caricature that deep featured a guy who  (1) had more than three teeth, (2) was able to navigate to another vehicle in traffic to check out the engine, and (3) had the vocabulary skills to pronounce the word “hemi”. (Face it, this could have been the banjo playing kid from Deliverance all grown up and edjumicated except that the actor in the commercial exuded a trailer full of charm. Welcome to our radar, Jon Reep!

Fast-forward a couple of years, and the genial, likeable guy parlayed that Andy Warhol moment into a nice career, a Comedy Central special and his first album, Bless His Heart. Basically an extended series of self-depricating jokes and cracks at Southerers, what saves Reep from falling into that tired genre is that same likeability and charm, which thankfully comes across on record as well. Although he’s playing a character, it’s more of an angle than a full blown persona like Dan Whitney’s Larry The Cable Guy or Andrew Clay’s Dice. He doesn’t play dumb; it’s closer to incredulous, as if he’s as weirded out as you are. (Rule Number One…make the audience like you.)

Nothing too subversive here, and while not wall-to-wall funny he does have some great bits on phrases we take for granted (“Ever try to shoot fish in a barrel? They’re fast!”) and wondering why Jimmy would smoke that crack corn, anyway. Sure, he might circle back to the catchphrase “Bless His Heart” a little too often (“always followed by something terrible”, he says), and picking on West Virginia and Louisiana is an interesting approach for a guy from North Carolina.

But somehow he pulls it off, like pointing out that Louisiana turned down Federal money for two years so they could keep the drinking age at a minimum (If you get pulled over in Louisiana and your blood-alcohol level is lower than the cop who pulls you over, you’re free to go!”). Or that his illiterate relative couldn’t spell I.Q. but could build an engine out of a tin can and a chicken heart. Crap jobs, bad movies, weird parents, messing with strangers, mascots and referees, restaurant pepper pimps…everyday material, but elevated by Jon’s energy and personality. (And yes, he does make fun of the absurdity of the whole “Hemi” situation, from the agent’s pitch to the auditions to pulling up alongside a Dodge Ram in traffic.)

If you like the Foxworthy/Larry genre, check out Jon’s Comedy Central clips and you’ll get a good read on what the album is like. (And keep an eye on your Hemi.)

Buy the CD at Jon’s official website

Jon Reep sampler.

The Hemi commercial that started it all. Or was it this one? Or maybe this?

Reep tells a Jeff Foxworthy joke without using words.

Reep on Mad TV

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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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