Tag Archives: Nick DiPaolo

T.G.I.F. – Ten For Tough Crowd

My little corner of the universe is finally starting to draw some first-rate comedians on a regular basis. Tomorrow night I’m headed out to see the great Nick DiPaolo, and in two weeks Patrice O’Neal lumbers into town. Perhaps because both have recent specials they’re hitting some of the stops they might not ordinarily target, but whatever the reason, I’m thrilled.

I first became a fan of both on the late, great Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn. Sure, it wasn’t the biggest hit in the history of cable, but anyone I’ve ever talked to who watched more than a couple of episodes became a total loyalist. I’m still flummoxed that a network like Comedy Central hasn’t figured out that an anthology of those shows – hell, even a three-DVD “best of” package – would be gobbled up immediately by the core fans.

Maybe this year, Santa?

So in honor of Nick and Patrice, as well as Colin Quinn, Jim Norton, Greg Giraldo and the rest of the comics who made those shows magical, here are Ten For Tough Crowd. Enjoy the weekend!

(01) – Nick DiPaolo

(02) – Colin Quinn

(03) – Patrice O’Neal

(04) – Jim Norton

(05) – Greg Giraldo

(06) – Judy Gold

(07) – Dave Attell

(08) – Keith Robinson

(09) – Rich Vos

(10) – Jim David

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(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.”

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(F)X Marks the Spot

Louis C.K. is back on television and thank God for that!

Lucky Louie, his prior cable show that infused his comedy writing into a lewd and hysterical sitcom, proved to be too much for people. Their loss! The cast (Pamela Adlon, Rick Shapiro and several great fellow comics) was perfect, and his knack for putting himself into extremely awkward situations was both bold and hilarious.

Louie, the new show, merges clips of his stand-up performance with related filmed set-ups, which is not a new idea (think Seinfeld if the clips were used within the show instead of just bumpers). But Louis is an extremely watchable actor who convincingly sells uncomfortable and cringe-worthy. The material is based on his own life;  I sure hope he’s embellishing the bad parts.

Great to see fellow comics like Jim Norton, Nick DiPaolo and Eddie Brill onboard as well (I could watch a “poker scene” every week just to let these guys riff) and Chelsea Peretti was great as the date from hell. But the better part of the show is simply Louis on stage, showing why he might just be the best stand-up comic we have right now. Not to mention prolific – this year should also see the release of yet another CD and DVD of fresh material.

Personally I enjoy the blend of stand-up and filmed segments – Louis C.K. writes, directs, edits and produces the entire thing, so it’s a pretty consistently funny experience. But if you’re the type who enjoys the stand-up routines but hates the vignettes that set them up, Videogum is the site for you – they’ve parsed the stage material.

Bonus: hearing “Brother Louie” as the theme song every week!

***

Rescue Me is also back for its final season, although the decision was made to split the episodes between 2010 and 2011, with the closing of the show set to coincide with the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

 The first episode picks up after the pseudo-cliffhanger from last year (did anyone really think they were going to kill Tommy Gavin?) and uses the hour to re-introduce most of the central and recurring characters, most of whom have finally had their fill of Tommy. Haunted by his personal failures – and still haunted by his dead cousin – Gavin is somehow still on the precipice of a further fall even when seemingly at rock bottom. His wife might be finding solace with one of his crew, his daughter might be following in his footsteps, and his workplace might be closing, the victim of budget cuts and politics.

When the show first aired, there was a solid dose of homage to the fallen heroes from 9/11 and an emphasis on what is was all about to be a firefighter. As seasons progressed it became more about the humor and pathos of the firefighters’ personal lives (much like The Job spent less and less time at the police station), but anyone who knows good television cans ee an arc of redemption on the way. Will Tommy Gavin have to sink lower before rising to the occasion? Do bears shit in the woods?

Leary has always been loyal to his friends and associates, so thankfully that results in a lot of face time for Adam Ferrara and especially the great Lenny Clarke, whose Uncle Teddy character has shown he’s not shy about firing a sidearm. Also great to welcome back the luminous Andrea Roth, note-perfect as his exasperated (and smoking-hot) wife Janet.

I like Denis Leary the stand-up, but I really like Denis Leary the actor/producer/writer a lot more. He’s two-for-two already and I hope he and partner Peter Tolan have more concepts up their sleeves for 2012 and beyond.

Just two more home runs for FX, arguably the best channel on TV the past couple of years. And only a couple of more months before It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia and Sons of Anarchy return.

Louie

Rescue Me

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I Still Miss Tough Crowd

Seven years ago tonight, Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn made its official series debut on Comedy Central (a short test run of the show aired in 2002). A round-table discussion featuring four stand-up comics and host Colin Quinn, Tough Crowd‘s scope was everything and anything – race, religion, politics, current events, celebretards and whatever else the writers and the producers found chat-worthy. Issues would be raised and covered, sometimes a brief skit was included and then some bizarre audience participation games and/or final summaries from the comics would close the show.

It was fast and loose, and although the panelists had an idea of what the topics would be, it was anything but scripted. More often than not the comics would launch into tirades at each other, especially if a joke bombed (as it often would) or someone pandered to the studio audience for an applause break (a mortal sin for the regulars and an excuse for a verbal beat down). And by regulars I mean the most frequent panelists who cycled in and out; it seemed as if at least two of them were on every program. Quinn assembled a veritable All-Star team of cutting-edge comics who were quick on their feet, sarcastic and fearless; that they were also friends made the viewer a fly on the wall in a raucous no-holds-barred bullshit session.

Regulars included comedians Nick DiPaolo, Greg Giraldo, Judy Gold, Jim Norton, Patrice O’Neal, Keith Robinson and Rich Vos. Other frequent guest comics included Dave Attell, Todd Barry, Lewis Black, Billy Burr, Louis C.K., Jim David, Marc Maron and Greg Proops among many, many of the top names that sat in on the madness. It seems like everyone sat in at least once – George Carlin, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Robert Klein…you just weren’t seeing that many amazing comedians that frequently anywhere on television at the time, let alone that informally.

For those not used to him, Quinn seemingly bumbled his way through cue cards and stage directions, but Colin’s style had always been to keep moving forward, even if he ran himself over in the process. And Quinn always insisted that the blown gags, the awkward silences, the comics talking over each other remained in the broadcast, warts and all. Above all, Quinn wanted honesty, and although it was unlike anything else on television and certainly not for everyone, it was real.

Although the panelists did try to score points against each other, and it did give them a chance to work in some topical material, there were several moments when a controversial discussion turned fascinatingly serious and animated. Of course, they drove the car into the brick wall on occasion, too, and that was half the fun.

But soon Comedy Central seemed to stop promoting the show, and whether it was a battle to tighten the structure of the show (no way would Quinn ever do that) or the argumentative nature of the program not fitting in with The Big Picture remains unclear. But they let it die; by the end of 2004 it was over. Comedy Central was having great success with Dave Chappelle, but everything they tried to fill the Tough Crowd slot with – Blue Collar Comedy, Adam Carolla, Graham Norton – died quickly. Every time they come up with a Jeff Dunham Show and it sinks like a stone, I figure it’s just karma biting them in the ass.

Laurie Kilmartin was one of the writers. Her thoughts here.

Many current shows now use the same format – Bill Maher has three guests who discuss issues, but he has both the freedom of language and the restriction of audience that HBO brings. Chelsea Lately has two segments where the host (Chelsea Handler)  riffs on a news item and then has three guest comics pile on (albeit far tamer than Tough Crowd). and now we have the excremental Marriage Ref, which combines the host/panel format with reality television into a train wreck of a program.

There are dozens of Comedy Central products available and a humongous video library online, but Tough Crowd has been buried like a bad habit. No DVD. No reunion special. No re-airing of over two hundred episodes. On that network, Tough Crowd is forgotten.

But not to the fans. It lives and breathes in the hearts of anyone who loved the show.  And so tonight I tip my hat to Colin and Greg and Nick and Jim and Keith and Judy and Patrice and Rich…and all the writers, staffers and producers who had the brains and the hearts and the balls to make controversy entertaining every night.

Here’s hoping Comedy Central does the right thing – even if only to make some money – and makes those shows available again. In a universe where According To Jim stays on the air for eight seasons, surely Tough Crowd fans can be thrown a bone?

Best of Tough Crowd, Part One

Best of Tough Crowd, Part Two

Wiki site

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T.G.I.F. – Ten CCP Episodes

 

To honor the fourteenth season of Comedy Central Presents, which kicks off next week (2/19), this week’s TGIF focuses upon ten standout episodes from the past. Many of these are in rotation at Comedy Central but there are no set days and times – the schedule of reruns changes constantly. So set that recorder to grab “all episodes” and you will not only come across these (eventually) but discover a few new favorite comics by accident. I know I did. 

And don’t forget to tune in for tonight’s episode (2/12) featuring clips from the upcoming season, followed by the season finale of John Oliver’s New York Standup with Mary Lynn Rajskub, Chris Hardwick, Greg Fitzsimmons and a feature set by the great Paul F. Tompkins

Below are links to ten comics who might not be household names in the flyover states, but are top-shelf for true comedy fans. Links will take you to their Comedy Central page where there are several video clips available, some from their CCP episodes. I’ve also included a note showing how CCP describes them…and what the truth is

In alphabetical order by height: 

Having a ball isn't a bad thing.

 

Ian Bagg – Actually, they don’t say much about Ian except that he’s Canadian and from a remote area. Maybe they need better scouting. I say he’s a nutjob with a rapid-fire delivery who will have you rolling. 

Todd Barry – They say he’s cute and adorable. Yeah, like a Doberman puppy! How about sneakily subversive and wily? One of the best minds in the game – dry, droll and lethal. 

Nick DiPaulo – They say he’s a little bit reckless. I call it brutally honest and fearless. In his world there are no sacred cows…there is only hamburger. 

Pat Dixon – They say uniquely off-kilter comedic sensibility. I say incredible wordplay, subtle perversity (and some overt perversity too), great delivery and such an old-school look he should be in black and white. 

Eddie Gossling – I guess they’re running out of adjectives when they call him original, charming, and slightly self-deprecating. How about the guy at work you don’t want to mess with because he might blow his top? (Literally – the teapot impression is a classic!) 

Nick Griffin – They say he’s personal, precise and powerful. Really, CCPalliteration? Why not go with sadness, semen and shame? Griffin nails the middle-age guy who is life’s pinata. 

Lynne Koplitz – They say an accomplished stand up comedian. (Yawn.) I say that she’s proof positive that the phrase “comedy ain’t pretty” is a lie. But be careful – behind that lusty appearance is a killer with a bit of crazy and a filthy streak…you bad girl, you. 

John Mulaney – They say he is nice, kind of tall, whatever. Boy, that nailed it, huh? Mulaney released one of the best comedy albums of 2009; he’s a great writer and should be much better known than he is now. With his skills I suspect that’s only a matter of time. 

Dan Naturman – They say he’s a combination of self-deprecation and downright grouchiness. I say that…yeah, they got that one right. Perfect delivery and funny as hell – Last Comic Standing really blew it when they overlooked him. 

Tom Papa – Ok, CCP, time to hire a bio writer when you describe a guy as a family man. Sure, “observational comic” is an overused phrase, but Tom Papa is animated and smart and cranky and sarcastic. Oh – and hilarious. Opens for Seinfeld and if Jerry doesn’t show up the show still rocks. 

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T.G.I.F. – Ten More Laughs

 This week a little cheating – a couple of the clips feature multiple performers and as usual I can’t count to ten. Sad to think that Sather, Hedberg and Jeni are no longer with us; sadder to realize that two were suicides and the third might have been. Every one of these guys has made me laugh so hard that fluids tried to escape my body against my will. Enjoy!

comedy mask

Dave Chappelle doesn’t like Sesame Street very much.

The late Drake Sather was a great stand-up and comedy writer.

Norm MacDonald is effin brilliant.

So was the late Mitch Hedberg; this from the Just For Laughs Festival.

Another guy I miss, Richard Jeni, riffing on Michael Jackson.

Drew Carey, Ryan Stiles and Greg Proops on Who’s Line is it Anyway?

Banter between Colin Mochrie and Ryan doing the classic “Greatest Hits” ads.

Nick DiPaolo on drinking, driving and smoking.

Gilbert Gottfried can squeeze every last drop out of a funny line.

Craig Ferguson is funny on his show but his stand-up shows are killer.

Bonus tracks:

Eddie Izzard and the Evil Giraffe.

Jim Carrey channels David Caruso.

Life is short. Laugh every day!

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Stand Up Wit…Nick Di Paolo

"Am I that old that I have to warm up before I give somebody the finger?"

"Am I that old that I have to warm up before I give somebody the finger?"

Detractors call him a racist, a misogynist and/or a homophobe. I prefer the term equal-opportunity offender. But whatever you call him, Nick DiPaolo is funny.

Although the name and accent might scream “Brooklyn”, DiPaolo is originally from the Boston area, although he’s been a fixture on the NY/NJ comedy scene for years. His blunt, brutal sarcastic edge might flow like a river of well-directed bile, but that cadence is a product of great instincts and skill, highly polished over a two decade career. For Nick, nothing is sacred (including, and especially, himself) and we’re all along for the ride. A veteran of the comedy club and late-night TV circuits, Nick was also a main panelist on Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn and is a frequent member of the dais for the Comedy Central roasts.

Funny How is a Gatling gun of intolerance towards marriage, bad customer service, reality TV, drug commercials, sexual and racial inequality and the general stupidity we encounter every day. Recorded at the ACME Comedy Club in Minneapolis prior to the 2008 election, DiPaolo naturally spends a bit of time skewering the candidates, but not too much; only a tiny bit will risk sounding dated years from now. (The John McCain bits were great, but you could tell the physical gestures he was making made it twice as funny for those in the audience!) Despite being an avowed Republican, he rightfully whacks everyone – on both sides of the aisle. Yes, folks, Nick DiPaolo is a uni-ter, not a divi-der

Lots of laugh-out-loud moments; my favorite bits were the “Bat Story” (a bat loose in his bedroom turns Nick into a pussy) and “To Catch A Predator”, which almost made me drive my car into the guard rail. Half the fun is listening to Nick toss out three jokes in a single sentence, see the audience catch one or two and then chide them for missing the money shot. I’ve caught a lot of his televised appearances, and although I imagine a lot of this is seasoned club material to NYC fans, most of it was new to me. The couple of routines that weren’t (like “Dead Pope” ) remain so strong that I laughed as hard as I did the first time I heard them.

If you buy a Nick DiPaolo album you know it’s not something to play at the children’s party, so those with the right wavelength for this material should go grab it right away without reservation. (Also be sure to check out Nick’s earlier albums, Road Rage and Born This Way. Both are really funny, and if you like any of the three, you’ll like all three.)

 roast_logo

I wish I could say the same for the album released by Nick’s frequent Roast partner in crime, Jeffrey Ross. Granted, I popped the CD in with high expectations having enjoyed Ross’s brutal podium work in the Comedy Central roasts. But No Offense: Live From New Jersey is a big disappointment, thin on material and containing very few funny lines. Half the CD is an extended bit where two audience members (and I suspect the second was a plant) come onstage and play piano as Ross recites nonsense poems about his balls or whining in Chinese. It’s the kind of joke that works once if you do it right (Sam Kinison did it to great effect years ago) but it gets tiring the second and third time you trot out another poem, and then after that it’s just painful to sit through. Ask Dice.

I will not smell that finger, no sir!

I will not smell that finger, no sir!

Maybe it was the blue hair crowd at the casino that caused him to milk a routine that was working, or maybe he didn’t want to cross the line too deeply in front of an audience of relatives and friends…I don’t know. But silly poems? Ross isn’t John Valby, he’s a throwback to the quick-jabbing comedians of yesteryear, only more vulgar and gross because time has changed what’s acceptable in a commercial theatre (the old timers could be filthy and vile too, but most kept that in the clubs). The sharp put-down, whether to others or himself, is his strength, but he didn’t play to it. Then again, I’ve only seen Ross on television; I’ve never seen him headline a full show – maybe this is his act.

Or maybe the whole album was satire and it went over my head? Nah. He’s better than this. Hope he documents a stronger performance on CD/DVD soon.

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