Tag Archives: Rodney Dangerfield

(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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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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T.G.I.F. – Ten From Dangerfield’s

In yesterday’s essay about the loss of Robert Schimmel, I mentioned his early break on the Young Comedians Special on HBO. It’s amazing to look back at the number of famous comedians who were launched from that showcase, and to this day many still single out Rodney Dangerfield as the guy who helped them take that next crucial step in their careers.

A lesser comic might have been concerned that these new guys might overshadow them or at least become viable competition. After failing in his younger days as Jack Roy and then reinventing himself as the Rodney persona, I think he had an appreciation for how fragile success can be, and made an effort to help those he thought were worthy of a shot.

And I doubt he was worried about competitionRodney was the master.

So here are Ten From Dangerfield’s in NYC, featuring some great comics – many of whom got their career-making break from Rodney himself. Wish they’d release these old shows on DVD – people like Maurice LaMarche deserve better.

01) Bill Hicks

02) Bob Nelson

03) Richard Lewis

04) Bob Saget

05) Andrew Dice Clay

06) Fred Stoller

07) Tim Thomerson

08) Sam Kinison

09) Andy Kaufman

10) Roseanne Barr

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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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Manic Mondays

Yeah, I know it’s Sunday. I don’t want you to be late!

Love Bill Burr; one of my favorite comics. He’s mastered the art of balancing naked self-deprecation and outward anger issues.  That way you don’t get on him for being too cranky because he’s beating himself up about as badly as anyone else in his cross-hairs. And while I’ve always liked his work – his CDs are consistently funny – I think he’s really found his voice the past couple of years, and I’ll bet ranting into a recorder every Monday has had a lot to do with it.

I don’t do iTunes, so if I want to keep track of podcasts I like I have to remember to log onto the website and listen or download. Amish of me, I know, but it’s a good way to check how senile I’m getting if I don’t remember where to go or who I like to hear. I’ve toasted Marc Maron’s WTF before, and even had a TGIF on podcasts where he and  Burr were included. But I think it’s time for a reminder because Bill is taking his to a new level.

After my Sam Kinison piece yesterday I dropped a note on a forum talking about how lucky we were to have had Kinson, Richard Pryor, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Hicks and George Carlin all out there swinging at the same time. It wasn’t that long ago, and now they’re all gone. I followed by mentioning that it made me appreciate having Doug Stanhope and Bill Burr and Marc Maron around; three guys who are fearless and funny.

A kind fellow forum member hipped me that Maron had just done a guest spot on Burr’s podcast on Monday, and the exchange included some Kinison stories. This stunned me because Burr (to my knowledge) had never had a guest on before. Having an wildcard like Maron as a guest would be entertaining, but if he was telling road stories, this could be great. And it was.

The two are friends, and the conversation is all over the map, from road behavior to alcoholism to organized religion to puritanical audience members with checklists of taboo subjects. But the highlight is Maron recalling a few incidents from his days at the Comedy Store, especially when Sam would blow into town. Even though he has told the stories before, you can tell Maron is enjoying Burr hearing them for the first time.

Listen to the April 5 poscast here.

So if you aren’t already on board with Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast, I’m doling out this invite today so you can sign up and be ready for new madness tomorrow. Maybe it won’t take away the pain of a dull week, but at least Monday will be better. The early episodes (where Burr used to launch a stream of consciousness rant) are hilarious enough, but here he demonstrates a great affinity for hosting a one-to-one interview; I hope this is the first of many.

You can sign up on iTunes through the above link. Or (if you’re a Luddite like me) you can simply select any of the past episodes and stream them. Either way, don’t miss it.

Bill was a guest on Maron’s WTF podcast in January: Episode 37.

Bill Burr website

Mark Maron website

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Remembering Sam Kinison

Hard to believe that it’s eighteen years since Sam Kinsion was killed.

Like many, my first exposure to Sam’s mania was on the Young Comedian’s Special on HBO, hosted by Rodney Dangerfield. He was onstage for six minutes – six – and I’ll wager that anyone who watched that show that evening was on the phone by morning, calling a friend and saying “Holy shit…you have to see this guy!”.

Sam on the 1984 Young Comedian’s Special

Dangerfield proved to be a friend and mentor to Sam. Unlike some comedians, Rodney wasn’t afraid of competition from other comics, and Sam was incandescent from his first appearance. Rodney created the role of Professor Turgeson in his new movie Back To School just to give him a cameo, which Sam turned into one of the film’s best moments.

Sam’s routines on television were legendary; David Letterman‘s classic introduction for him was “Brace yourselves. I’m not kidding. Please welcome Sam Kinison.”

Sam Kinison’s debut on Letterman.

But you had to see him live. I was fortunate enough to see Sam three times; the first was in a tiny basement club with black walls and ceiling and a tiny stage with a couple of lights. Didn’t matter – Sam brought his own flame. He hit the stage with more energy and power than many of the rock bands that played there; his incendiary performance singed the hair off every head in the crowd. It was one of the most intense experiences of my life; I laughed my ass off but felt like I was pinned to the chair by a gale force wind the entire time.

Thankfully there are a few recorded documents to preserve Sam’s greatness. He issued three albums (Louder Than Hell, Have You Seen Me Lately?, Leader of the Banned); a fourth (Live From Hell) was released posthumously. (There are also some rarities available at the official website.) There are several DVDs available containing performance footage from Sam’s shows;  Wild Child collects a few of them together at one low price.

Brother Sam, a reminiscence by Sam’s brother Bill, is an excellent read. While the film based upon the book (with Dan Fogler as Sam) has not yet surfaced, the latest word is that HBO has it scheduled for 2012, the twentieth anniversary of his death. (A similarly titled documentary was released in 2005 featuring Bill and Rodney Dangerfield introducing a series of clips from Sam’s concerts.)

When mercurial artists die young, sometimes their short careers become over-rated because all we have to judge them by are a few brief moments that we extrapolate. History tells us that no one stays on top forever; Jimi Hendrix would have made a disappointing album at some point and James Dean would have starred in a clunker. Sam died young but we already got to see the ups and downs; he had streaks of absolute brilliance and periods of wasted excess. We saw him get off the mat and stand up again.

But what Sam always had was an insatiable need to connect, and had he lived I’m certain he would have been one of our greatest social critics, for he had no sacred cows. We lost Sam and Bill Hicks within two years of each other, two fearless comics who threw the truth out there in very different ways, both sadly gone in their 30’s. But the legacy of Bill Hicks lives on, sparked again with the release of American this year. Hopefully Sam’s movie will help perpetuate his memory and introduce him to a whole generation of people who have grown up without him. R.I.P., Sam.

Visit Sam Kinsion‘s official website.

Sam’s Wikipedia page.

Craig Gass doesn’t look like Sam, but close your eyes and listen.

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Stand Up Wit…David Feldman

David Feldman is an award-winning television comedy writer who, despite that success, toiled behind the scenes for years before doing his own material onstage on a regular basis. And when the stand-up appearances were successful, it still took him almost the entire decade to release his first comedy album. Hopefully Left Without Paying will generate enough buzz to prompt him to jumpstart the pace a little bit; I’d like much more from him before I punch my ticket off this mortal coil.

Feldman is pretty old school in his delivery, he enunciates dramatically with a slow and clear cadence. It’s as if a more hyper monologue-centric comedian was slowed down; imagine Rodney Dangerfield not sweating and using a bigger vocabulary, or early Woody Allen with less stutter and more confidence.  As expected from a writer for Dennis Miller and Bill Maher, two comics known for their biting sarcasm, Feldman’s barbs are fast and razor-sharp.

Feldman can dole out quick 1-2 punch lines but also revels in leveraging his physical appearance as a safe and ordinary looking guy to bait the audience into unsuspecting turns. What will start out like an innocuous topic that gets supportive applause will turn on a dime, or he’ll launch into an offensive joke demeaning women or the elderly. Of course, the crowd will take the bait and gasp, which sets him up to feign shock and with a shrug and a dismissive “Whaaat?”

Video: Cannabalism

He wouldn’t be a successful, award-winning writer if he didn’t have a boatload of great jokes, and this CD is loaded with them. I won’t spoil them here, but you’ll be pirating several at the office the next day. Favorites include the greatest Elvis impersonator, wet dreams, frozen sperm, cheating lists, deadbeat kids, the football injury, the Humane society for people…there are a few dry spots, but he’s wry and clever far more often than not. And, of course, wriggling out of a bit gone horribly awry is just as much fun for him.

Video: Sexual Harassment

Recorded with crystal clarity at the Acme Comedy Club in Minneapolis in front of a strong crowd, Left Without Paying is  a solid debut. Although Feldman currently records podcasts, I hope we get another album, and soon.

Buy Left Without Paying here.

David Feldman’s website

David Feldman wiki page and IMDB page

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