Tag Archives: Richard Jeni

Comedy Awards; R.I.P. Mick Green

It's OK to drink and vote, it's comedy!

Looks like comedy will get the last laugh after all.

MTV Networks and Comedy Central, along with Don Mischer Productions, will present The Comedy Awards, the “first multi-network event dedicated to the serious art of being funny” The affair will honor the writers, directors, actors and stand-up comics who made us laugh in 2010.

The event will take place on March 26, 2011 at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, while the program will be simulcast on Comedy Central, Spike TV, TV Land, VH1 and Nick at Nite on Sunday, April 10, 2011.

This is actually pretty exciting. I’m seeing a comedy boom unlike any since the 80s, and as sad as it has been to lose so many of my comedy heroes over the past few years, there is a new generation making its mark thanks in large part to their ability to produce and distribute work online. It’s time to leverage the activity, and New York is the right place to do it. I really, really  hope they get this right.

Nominees will be chosen by The Comedy Awards, Board of Directors, a prestigious group of comedy legends including Will Ferrell, Billy Crystal, James Burrows, Whoopi Goldberg, Seth MacFarlane, Brad Grey, Phil Rosenthal, Adam McKay, Jimmy Miller and Jay Roach, among others.”  That’s actually a decent start with decent representation of performers and show runners, with people who are dialed in to the current scene as well as the classics.

Winners will be selected by the Comedy Awards Voting Body, comprised of professionals from the comedy community-including producers, writers, performers, directors and stand-ups. In addition, comedy fans from around the world will nominate and cast their votes in online-only categories…”. It will be interesting to see what the categories are, and whether they follow the path of having people vote only within their appropriate categories. But I like the fact that, at least for the major awards, this is not an online circus dominated by people who have limited awareness of the history of the art.

Obviously there will be a slew of hot performers to spice up the event and broadcast (and DVD sale, and t-shirts, and …). The press release says it’s an “historic one-night-only celebration” but you know this is going to turn into a cash cow and be an annual event. And after the embarrassing list of nominees for “Best Comedy Album” that the Grammys belched out, who could blame them?

Let’s hope for a serious Hall of Fame and a tribute to recent losses like Robert Schimmel, Greg Giraldo and Richard Jeni. Better yet, how about a perpetual exhibit featuring the history of comedy? Take the initially great idea of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and avoid their mistakes.

I will say that the mention of MTV made me throw up in my mouth a little until I realized that they and Comedy Central are owned by the same parent corporation, Viacom.

Read all about it at the official website.

And R.I.P. one of rock’s founding fathers, guitarist Mick Green. His innovative work in bands like Johnny Kidd and The Pirates was a huge influence on countless bands, from The Who and Chris Spedding to Dr. Feelgood to revivalist garage and Mod bands that feature that simultaneous lead/rhythm style of playing.

I’m not sure where we go when we die, but the band just got way better.

Mick Green website

The Pirates

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R.I.P. Greg Giraldo

I was all set to type an essay about Arthur Penn, the distinguished director who just passed away at 88, when I received word that Greg Giraldo passed away this afternoon. Arthur, you’re going to have to be patient with me.

I was saddened to hear that you passed on today, but you’ve had a long life filled with achievements and recognition. When you’re pushing 90, the news is sad but not shocking. Giraldo, on the other hand, was literally half your age. This year, thanks to some major network face time, it seemed like his career was finally transcending from revered cult audience to the widespread acclaim that he so richly deserved. And now he’s gone, forever, four days after being rushed to the hospital in critical condition.

I am heartbroken.

My condolences to his family and many friends, as well as the millions of people around the world whose days – hell, lives were brightened by his comedy.

Video: Just For Laughs

Greg, I hope you are finally at peace.

I hope you can tell Mitch Hedberg how much we miss him. Please give Richard Jeni a hug, and I’ll bet Robert Schimmel could use one as well.

And please confirm that Andy Kaufman is really up there. If Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix could hold their tongue for two years, there’s still a chance Andy is laughing his ass off somewhere in Minnesota. With Elvis.

There will be a hole in my heart every time I watch a Roast knowing how much better you would have made it. But I can only imagine how great the roasts are on the other side, with Hedberg and Kinison and Pryor and Hicks and Lenny and Carlin and Rodney…that room is a little too full, if you know what I mean. Tell the people in charge we need the giants down here, especially now.

And thank you for every smile you put on my face, every laugh that overtook me, every tear that flowed from my eyes because I was doubled over and gasping for air. You had a gift and you shared it with me. I’ll have to make do with the albums and DVDs and internet videos…and memories.

Rest in Peace, brother.

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Remembering Robert Schimmel

Another great one left us far too soon.

I couldn’t believe the news when I heard it; I had been travelling and hadn’t even known he was in the accident the week before. The first time I checked in to see what was up on the news, there it was. I knew I wanted to write something about his passing but I needed time to collect my thoughts. Like most sudden shocks, I think a part of me was hoping that it was just a bad dream.

Goddamn it.

Talk about irony – one of the funniest routines on Robert Schimmel’s first album was about his daughter cracking up her car (and his solution for how to pay the bill let you know immediately which side of the PC fence Bob was sitting). Now, tragically, Robert died not from the cancer he had suffered from, but from injuries suffered in an automobile accident, his daughter behind the wheel. Maybe God has a twisted sense of humor after all.

I think those of us who followed his career figured that he was bulletproof by now. Diagnosed with cancer, Schimmel not only fought back but made lemons out of lemonade, using his personal tragedies as the source of brilliant material in both his stand-up act and his book Cancer On Five Dollars A Day.

Video: 1994 Las Vegas special

My good friend Bill and I have long enjoyed turning each other on to new comics we come across, and when Schimmel hit the radar it was Bill who was on board first. As always, he was on the horn to me as quickly as possible with his stamp of approval, an imprimatur that I consider gold. And he was spot on – one listen to Comes Clean and I was sold for life. Here was a guy who suffered no fools, especially himself, and made no bones about the fact that we all engaged in some strange and stupid behavior on a daily basis.

No letdowns after that debut album, either – If You Buy This CD I Can Get This Car, Unprotected and Life Since Then (much of the latter also parsed as Reserection) skewered everything – religion, family, social morality, sex, celebretards and…did I mention sex? Bob had flawless delivery and could spin a great story, but somewhere in there he’d weave in a bit about bestiality or masturbation or porn films like other comics tell airplane jokes.

Video: Total Gym

Most great comics suffer pain, and Schimmel had anything but an easy life – divorce, heart attack, cancer, cirrhosis, hepatitis C infection – even the death of his young son. But nothing was safe when it came to his material, and to be able to knock back those challenges with humor is almost superhuman.

Schimmel was uncompromising – sexual, sarcastic humor flowed out of him so naturally that even some who would normally be offended by such topics and language would have to laugh. Like all great comics, he spoke truth – exaggerated truth, sure, but his material rang clear and genuine. If you’re going to do edgy stand-up, you need to see life through a different prism than most everyone else. Why would we waste time listening to someone who can’t?

Video: The All Girls School

Rodney Dangerfield gave him an early break – as he did for so many up and comers – but thanks to the tone and content of Bob’s act, network television was not in the cards. He was a huge success on pay cable and uncensored radio, but watching this guy work a room was the only way to truly appreciate him.

Naturally the cancer treatment affected his performance; his voice was a bit weaker and his stamina and energy had clearly waned. But his mind was as sharp as ever, and he learned to shift down a gear to still dazzle with great inflections and impeccable timing.  Sixty wasn’t an age, it was a speed.

Schimmel story about Rodney Dangerfield

Schimmel story about George Carlin

I know people die every day, we all lose them, it happens every year and as one gets older the list of those gone by gets staggering. But that doesn’t make it easy. I was shook when he was diagnosed, but I got to see him perform and speak with him briefly not long afterwards and he had the same manic glint in his eye as before. Seeing that recharged me, and frankly I believed that he had kicked cancer’s ass…or at least scared it away for a little while.

Video: Hollywood Squares

Now I’m remembering the countless times I have all but done a spit-take listening to his routines. I’m thinking about the time I saw him play a small club and gradually win over an audience who had no idea what they were in for when he first took the stage. I’m thankful that I have so much of his work available to pull out and watch and listen to whenever I want. And I’ll always remember that look in his eye after that last show.

So many gone. George Carlin. Bill Hicks. Sam Kinison. Richard Pryor. Rodney Dangerfield. Richard Jeni. Mitch Hedberg. Now Robert Schimmel.

I’m sad. I’m pissed. But I feel blessed that I was here to see him first-hand and enjoy his masterful work. R.I.P.,  Bob.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Irreverent Laughs

Feeling a bit irreverent and acerbic today, and I could really go off on organized religion, and celebretards, and gullible people and mind contol and politics.

But why not leave that to the professionals?

 Life is short. Laugh every day.

comedy mask

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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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