Tag Archives: Louis CK

Goodbye (TV) Summer

Not that I had any free time to watch all of it.

Summer used to be the dead zone for television, but basic cable has been kicking the networks’ asses for a while thanks to their willingness to go against the grain. Sure, people spend more time outdoors in the summer, but watching at ones own schedule has been a choice since the earliest VCR. With digital television, I don’t think I ever watch a program in its actual time slot; I’ll even start a show late just to zip through the endless commercials. (Don’t worry, advertisers, your product placement is hard to miss…)

So the summer ends and the flurry of new shows are being dangled in front of us like a basket of cant-miss gems…even though we know most of them will suck out loud. And if there is something truly ground-breaking, it will likely get cancelled. Gotta keep those inbred families and their reality shows numbing the minds of America.

So a fond farewell to some favorites:

  • The Closer, winding down towards the series end although the rumored spin-off Major Crimes sounds great.
  • Breaking Bad, which just gets better every year even when you think it can’t possibly raise the bar.
  • Rescue Me, Denis Leary’s often-brilliant series that did for firemen what M*A*S*H did for war vets
  • Friday Night Lights, a class exit for a class act (although you Direct TV subscribers had a jump on me)
  • Louie, which finally let the brilliance of Louis CK shine through to a bigger audience.

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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.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Emmy Thumbs

That’s thumbs both up and down, as it looks like the voting academy finally started to recognize that basic cable programs are pretty much kicking TV’s ass right now. Yes, Mad Men had gotten tons of accolades (and deservedly so), but TNT, FX and USA have been pumping out quality programming with interesting characters and solid casts without getting their due. I’m still burning over the fact that The Shield got their attention in the first season but then fell off their radar after that despite six seasons that raised the bar every year. But we shouldn’t cry over spilt blood.

This year’s list of nominees did provide some surprising nods that put a big smile on my face. But as always, there were some jaw-dropping announcements that just made me shake my head. So for this week’s TGIF, how about Ten Emmy Thumbsfive up and five down?

(01)Justified: Walton Goggins got screwed over so many times on The Shield that I lost count, and I was afraid that his dynamic performance on Justified was going to be overlooked as well. But thankfully voters woke up and nominated him along with series lead Timothy Olyphant and the amazing Margo Martindale (who might have given the single best performance on television this year).

(02)Louis CK: Not only did he grab nods for his show and his acting, but his comedy special picked up two nods as well. Denis Leary had to watch The Job get ignored before hitting it big with Rescue Me; let’s hope Lucky Louie opened the door for a long ride with Louie.

(03)The Good Wife: a strong show that appeals to men and women, and Alan Cumming got a well-deserved nomination along with star Julianne Margulies.

(04)Robot Chicken: Some of the absolutely gut-bustingly funniest shows on TV are buried in the Adult Swim section of the Cartoon Network. Seth Green continues to amaze.

(05)Parks And Recreation: The pendulum on Thursday’s NBC comedy block has clearly swung to the newer half of the evening, with Community and P&R really stepping up their game. Amy Poehler is great but Nick Offerman should have been a no-brainer nominee.

(06) – Um…where are the nominations for The Closer, Castle, The Walking Dead, Treme, Fringe and just about anything sci-fi related?

(07)Modern Family – great show with a great cast. But did every single adult cast member deserve a nod? You couldn’t slide in anyone from Community or Parks and Recreation? Have you not seen Children’s Hospital?

(08) – Category Blunders! Since when is SNL a comedy series and not a variety show? Kristin Wiig gets a supporting comedy actress nod? Hosts of the show are guest actors? How about people like Mary McConnell and Cloris Leachman, who are cast members in the shows they were nominated for as guests?

(09)The Good Wife – like Modern Family, a good show, but let’s get real. Christine Baranski and Josh Charles are good actors, but…the best? There are at least ten people on Sons of Anarchy alone that blew them out of the water, and that show was completely overlooked again this year

(10)Mariska Hartigay. Really? Really?

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Stewart Lee Rides Again

The new season of Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle is upon us.

Not everyone gets Lee. Then again, not everyone got Bill Hicks, or Lenny Bruce, or Mort Sahl for that matter. There are those today who don’t “get” Doug Stanhope or Louis CK or Marc Maron, either. Y’know…because they don’t tell “jokes”

“There’s that word again: jokes. Does it matter if Lee doesn’t have jokes, in the usual sense? Is his humour, mainly derived from a tortuous style and pregnant pauses, hilarious on its own merits? The gag of Lee’s performance is that he’s not prepared to give general audiences what they expect from stand-up comedy — with a pace that makes Steven Wright look like Lee Evans. Lee would rather breakdown the minutiae of his own material, during the gig itself, and preempt audience criticism in the moment.”

Read the rest of Dan Owen’s piece here.

Load up on Stewart Lee here and here.

R.I.P. Jackie Cooper.

Famous to many for The Champ, also for his career rebirth in the Superman movies. But when I was a kid, I knew him best as the towhead who had a big crush on Miss Crabtree. I didn’t blame him.

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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.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Comic Clips

The human race has one really effective weapon and that is laughter.”
 (Mark Twain)

Sadly, Mark Twain never won the Mark Twain Award for Comedy, but that doesn’t mean his words weren’t prescient. I need some laughs this weekend, and I’ll wager a bunch of you do, too. So let’s lock and load.

Here are Ten Comic Clips from some of my favorite performers.

(01) Stewart Lee on political correctness.

(02) Joe Rogan on Noah’s Ark

(03) Brendon Burns on feminism

(04) Darren Frost on today’s youth

(05) Eddie Izzard on Stonehenge

(06) Richard Herring on religion

(07) Jim Jefferies on drinking

(08) Ricky Gervais on the obesity problem

(09) Louis CK on gay marriage

(10) Robert Schimmel on Hollywood Squares

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T.G.I.F. – Ten More 2010 Comedy Albums

Yeah, I know it’s the end of January.

I’ve been compiling Top 10 album lists (and beyond) for music for over twenty-five years. It started as a conversation piece among a few friends (and as frightening as that sounds, that group continues to swap lists annually) and eventually worked its way into magazines I write for. I’m proud to have been part of the Village Voice Pazz’n’Jop poll for the last decade, even as my nominees seem to distance themselves from the vox populi a little more every year (tomorrow’s entry will delve a bit deeper into that).

But I have always been a comedy fan and a fan of comedy albums. Many friends wonder how I can listen to a routine more than once and find it funny. I’m not sure I can explain why except to say that (1) not every comedy album is worth multiple listenings and (2) I don’t even want to analyze and define the formula that will make me gasp for air in fits of laughter. I just know that funny is funny.

So this week after much hand-wringing and ear-wrangling, I laid out the Ten Best Comedy Albums of 2010. And trust me, 2010 was a great year for comedy albums – there are many more beyond this. And 2011 is already off to a great start with Brian Regan, Louis CK, Jim Norton and Nick Griffin having new releases on the shelf, with a ton more on the schedule.

So for now, allow me to bring your attention to Ten More 2010 Comedy Albums to should check out. Alphabetically arranged, but jump in anywhere…

01) Will Durst, Raging Moderate (Stand Up! Records) – One of the best political comics of our generation; I wish he had a bigger pulpit to preach from.

02) Chris Fairbanks, Fairbanks! (Rooftop Comedy) – You know that friend who will say anything to make you laugh? The sillier it gets, the further he’ll go?

03) Janeane Garofalo, If You Will (Image Entertainment) – Few people are as adept at stripping themselves bare, warts and all, no apologies.

04) Tommy Johnagin, Stand Up Comedy (Rooftop Comedy) – Just missed my Top Ten, a little short and crashes at the end. But the first 30 minutes is gold.

05) Jackie Kashian, It’s Never Going To Be Bread (Stand Up! Records) – Next time someone says there are no good female comics, slap them and give them this album.

06) Simon King, Unfamous Comedian (Uproar Entertainment) – Almost an hour-long of non-stop tangents, and when you open with “llama fisting”…

07) Shane Mauss, Jokes To Make My Parents Proud (Comedy Central Records) – Imagine Kenneth from 30 Rock…only he’s high, sarcastic and condescending.

08) Tom Simmons, Keep Up (Rooftop Comedy) – Another Top Ten near-miss, mixes puns and one-liners with strong political and social commentary.

09) Dan Telfer, Fossil Record (A Special Thing Records) – I know, when someone said “dinosaur jokes”, I rolled my eyes too. Trust me.

10) Reggie Watts, Why Shit So Crazy? (Comedy Central Records) – By comparison, I’m not a big fan of comedy musicians, but this guy is a genius.

Starting Sunday, the countdown of the Ten Best Comedy DVDs of 2010.

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