Tag Archives: Sarah Silverman

T.G.I.F. – Ten Literary Laughs

“Looks like we got us a reader…”

Ever since a relative spoke that horrific (and ironic, considering the skull it was emanating from) comment about one of my young daughters, it stuck in my head like glue. I don’t know if it’s in the DNA or it’s just a nice skill to develop, but yeah, I raised a couple of “reeedurzwho will hopefully continue and enjoy the science of mental absorption until they take their final dirt nap.

Arguably, as an adult with a busy schedule, it is hard to find the time to plow through books; even my pop magazine consumption has fallen off the cliff. When I do get in the swing of it I tend to grab a few things with a common theme, be they historical recollections, humorous fiction or pop culture biographies. For example, a recent viewing of Public Enemies whetted my appetite for the golden age of FBI vs. bank robbers, so I grabbed a few books about crime during the Depression Era. Similar spontaneous tangents have seen me devour a few books at a time on political corruption, alien invasions and the birth of the television industry.

I am a Renaissance Man ready for my day on Jeopardy.

So I noticed that a gaggle of books by or about comedians was hitting the shelves and thought I’d pass along a few tips. I haven’t read most of them, but I’ve got a few in hand and some of the others seem to be no-brainers considering the source. I’m not sure why such a plethora of comic pulp has descended upon us in such fashion; maybe a certain relative wandered into a publishing house and dropped a famous observation in the lobby?

Of course, like the environment I created for my children, I had a loving mentor making sure I was exposed to the wonders of the written word from the moment I could pay attention. My Mom wasn’t a career woman, the word they had back in the day was housewife. Of course, we know now that a housewife not only cooked and cleaned and shopped and managed the household but also had the ultimate responsibility of talking these little lumps of flesh called kids and molding them into people. In my house, Mom was the moral compass who taught by example first and words second; how to be kind and unselfish, how to be confident without being boorish, how to develop an independent personality and find your voice in a world that was increasingly pushing vanilla.

And yes, how to read. By the time I entered first grade I could read at a middle school level, understood basic math and had a fairly voracious vocabulary. And although that description screams nerd, I wasn’t. That jump-start on my education provided an incalculable advantage for me throughout my life, even if I didn’t always seize the opportunities that came my way. She also had a great sense of humor, something that she encouraged me to nurture, and although our tastes in comedy would eventually veer off from the basics, she was the one who celebrated my attraction to the comics I would see on Ed Sullivan and Johnny Carson (and hear during the first great wave of recorded comedy).

I drift off onto this tangent because today marks twenty-five years since my Mom died from cancer, far too young and far too suddenly. There’s so much that she never got to see, and it pains me that I never got to share so many events and accomplishments with her. But I am comforted that I carry her spirit in my heart every day, and I see her best qualities in my daughters , the ones she never got to meet. So as skeptical and confused as I am about life and religion and human condition, I know that whether you call it DNA or a soul, there’s a bit of her sweetness and greatness that is preserved beyond her time.

Twenty-five years? That sometimes seems like an eternity and other times like yesterday. Thanks for everything, Mom.

I doubt Mom would have read these books to me as a child. But here are Ten Literary Laughs – books by comedians for those of us who need a little diversion in a difficult world. The brain exercise is just a side benefit.

And yes, Mom, they’re in alphabetical order by author

(01) – Mike Birbiglia: Sleepwalk With Me

(02) – Jim Breuer: I’m Not High

(03) – Adam Carolla: In Fifty Years We’ll All be Chicks

(04) – David Cross: I Drink For A Reason

(05) – Tina Fey: Bossypants

(06) – Greg Fitzsimmons: Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons

(07) – Gilbert Gottfried: Rubber Balls and Liquor

(08) – Paul Mooney: Black Is The New White

(09) – Patton Oswalt: Zombie Speceship Wasteland

(10) – Sarah Silverman: Bedwetter

3 Comments

Filed under Comedy, Editorials, Reviews

Comically Bad Advice

Thanks to an event that occurred last night, I sought out some words of wisdom and comfort this morning. Along with the obvious and the occasionally inspirational, I decided to go for the absurdly comedic angle as well.

There’s no Chicken Soup for the Funny Bone, but there is this:

You’re A Horrible Person But I Like You

The pretense is a twisted version of the advice column, where someone (often fabricated) writes in with a question so the columnist can dispense some words of wisdom. Over the years these responders have been straightforward helpful types, wiseass sarcastic vipers or pompous amateur psychologists. and almost without exception, the columns were popular, the printed version of a train wreck that can’t be avoided.

In this book, a group of comedians take a whack at the same Q&A task, asking and answering a few apiece. While the results are uneven, each comic usually has at least one good one, with several (Patton Oswalt, Jim Gaffigan, Todd Barry and Paul F Tompkins) especially strong.

How’s this for a list of advice givers? Aziz Ansari, Judd Apatow, Fred Armisen, Maria Bamford, Todd Barry, Samantha Bee, Michael Ian Black, Andy Borowitz, Michael Cera, Vernon Chatman, Rob Corddry, David Cross, Larry Doyle, Paul Feig, Jim Gaffigan, Zach Galifianakis, Janeane Garofalo, Daniel Handler, Todd Hanson, Tim Heidecker, Ed Helms, Buck Henry, Mindy Kaling, John Lee, Thomas Lennon, Al Madrigal, Aasif Mandvi, Marc Maron, Adam McKay, Eugene Mirman, Morgan Murphy, Bob Odenkirk, John Oliver, Patton Oswalt, Martha Plimpton, Harold Ramis, Amy Sedaris, Michael Showalter, Sarah Silverman, Paul F. Tompkins, Sarah Vowell, David Wain, Eric Wareheim, Rainn Wilson and Lizz Winstead.

It’s a perfect book for a quick scan; each chapter (organized by comic) is but a few pages long and can be read in a few minutes. And although the chapters themselves can be read out of order, some of the writers have some clever call-backs that would be easily missed if their chapters weren’t read in their entirety.

It’s not gut-busting funny, but it did put a much-needed smile on my face today. As always, your mileage may vary.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Reviews

WTF Turns 100

Congratulations to Marc Maron – tomorrow will mark the one hundredth episode of his brilliant WTF podcast. Since September 2009, like clockwork, these hours of self-analysis, penetrating interviews and social observation keep popping out twice a week like gold.

The WTF Podcast page

The very first episode featured the Roastmaster General himself, Jeff Ross, and the array of guests he’s welcomed is staggering. Patton Oswalt, David Feldman, Maria Bamford, Jim Norton, Robin Williams, Dave Attell, Sarah Silverman, Doug Stanhope, Andy Kindler…he’s quietly assembled a library of audio documents that any serious comedy lover should savor.

And Maron, beyond being incredibly funny in his own right, has proven to be an incisive interviewer who is unafraid to broach sensitive topics (and yes, sometimes with a personal edge). Some of my favorites included a frank discussion of race with Chicago comic Dwayne Kennedy and some gutsy exchanges with two popular but controversial comedians accused of joke thievery (Dane Cook and Carlos Mencia).

Although many are recorded in his garage studio, Maron has taken WTF on the road and has even filmed a pilot for that will hopefully be picked up as a series. Not only will it bring in some welcome funding, but the show and its brilliant guests will get much-needed exposure to the vast majority of people who don’t even know the show exists, let alone where to find it. Surely there has to be room in the vast cable landscape for intelligent discourse?

For now, I’m just thankful that Maron, Bill Burr, Kevin Pollack and so many others have adopted the format and put this out there for free. With literally hundreds of hours of these shows available, there will never be another boring car ride. Ever.

Congratulations, Mark! Please try to enjoy the moment.

1 Comment

Filed under Comedy, Reviews

TV *and* Not TV!

A crapshoot usually results in…crap.

We’re at the cusp of some major decision-making at the major television networks. Although a few things have leaked out already, the upfronts which are scheduled for the next couple of days will find ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS and others setting the stage for their Fall 2010 programming. Sometimes it’s not so much what they say as what they don’t say.

For example, you’re unlikely to see a formal announcement confirming Better off Ted is cancelled. But when you look at the ABC schedule, it won’t be there. Sayonara, genius comedy show.

This season sees a few iconic shows come to an end. Law and Order, tied for the longest-running night-time drama program ever, just got its walking papers…yet the network picked up Law and Order Los Angeles (or as Ray Davies and I like to call it, LOLA!). Soon the entire network will be L&O, CSI and NCIS. If you don’t like acronym drama, TFB – you’re SOL.

Lost is ramping up to its final weekend with an episode this Tuesday, some recaps on the weekend and then a two and a half hour finale on Sunday May 23rd. The next night, 24 will sign off its final season with a two-hour show before Jack Bauer and company undoubtedly head for the big screen.

Heroes has bitten the dust, although there will be a 2-4 hour special to hopefully wrap up all the plotlines. No such luck for FlashForward (which I still think would have made a nice lead in to V, which did get renewed), and Happy Town is apparently already slated to burn off and die in the summer. So much for novel ideas. Bring on the cop shows and medical dramas; America can’t get enough of people in uniforms. Even those who snog their co-workers.

Even the smaller cable networks are dicing and splicing. The once highly promoted Sarah Silverman Program has gotten the axe from Comedy Central, and Justified might be on life support at FX.

Thankfully, some quality dramas (Fringe, Castle) and comedies (Parks & Recreation, Community) survived their initial spotty ratings long enough to build a following and gain renewal. Others likely to get renewed defy all logic.

It will be an interesting week – each network has a long-standing favorite leaving the air, and NBC’s Jay Leno Show disaster leaves them with a gaping hole to fill (Parenthood is weak and The Marriage Ref is horrid, but any port in a storm, yes?). Be sure to follow the upfronts here at TV By The Numbers.

Or Entertainment Weekly’s Bubble Show Scorecard.

***

Some people get so frustrated, they want to blow up their television.

Now you’re talking!

Leave a comment

Filed under Editorials, Film/TV, Reviews

Stand Up Wit…Whitney Cummings

Careful...she'll cut a bitch.

Against all conventional logic, the glass ceiling in the comedy world remains intact. One would think that if Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller could achieve great success almost half a century ago, we’d be flush with popular and successful female comics in 2009. Instead, the woman with the biggest draw is Lisa Lampanelli, who has extrapolated “I’m fat and I bang black guys” into a large venue following. Meanwhile, the brilliant Maria Bamfordeasily one of the ten best comics working today regardless of gender – is better known for her recent commercials for Target than for her consistent excellence as a writer and performer. Don’t blame her for that.

Over the years we’ve seen Roseanne Barr and Ellen Degeneres and Whoopi Goldberg find tremendous success, and during the 80’s comedy boom there were several that were household names. So what’s wrong in 2009? There’s no shortage of strong current female comedians worthy of adulation, but fewer are breaking through at the level that many of the male comedians attain. Try asking a friend to name five current female comedians. You’ll likely get LampanelliSarah Silvermanand a blank stare

Maybe they’ll come up with Wanda Sykes or Margaret Cho or Kathy Griffin, all of whom have had wider exposure thanks to multiple television shows. I doubt many would come up with Whitney Cummings, but after laughing my ass off listening to her first album (Emotional Ninja) I predict that will change very soon.

Cummings doesn’t have a schtick or a character, and her material is pretty much old school observational comedy about sex and relationships. But while she can be crude and vulgar, she’s also ferociously funny. She’s strong with a quick one liner but also has well-structured longer pieces that pile one laugh on top of another. She’s able to play both ends of the men vs. women card in such a way that you laugh at all of it regardless of your gender…probably because you realize most of what she’s talking about is absolutely true.

Cummings doesn’t talk down to the audience, she places herself within it, so we’re on her side even when we’re the butt of the joke. She’ll humble herself with a self-deprecating stinger, but she’s no victim. She might launch some vitriol towards the losers and bad dates, but she’ll also admit to being a sneaky manipulator. Basically she’s showing that we’re all playing games…so let’s get those cards on the table and laugh at how shallow and absurd it all is.

The bits that aren’t about relationships are topical but universally funny, like the banality of social networks, the true definition of yoga and wondering why we reward our friends’ biggest mistakes with gifts. I won’t spoil the punch lines, but my favorite bits – her breast exam, sleeping her way to nowhere, how women snoop on and argue with men – had me rolling. She excels at stringing together a wealth of material with exceptional timing and delivery, adept at a pregnant pause before a punch line or punctuating a sarcastic retort.

I’m not exactly going out on a limb here by praising her work. In the past couple of years her profile has soared; she’s been tagged as a rising star by Entertainment Weekly, Variety and Alternative Press. Her panel time on Chelsea Lately is usually brilliant, and her breakout performance on the Comedy Central roast of Joan Rivers was a logical next step (she had been writing for them for a couple of years). Cummings is only in her mid-twenties, yet she’s already proven to be a prolific writer and a strong performer. She’s attractive, she’s very smart, and she is fearless.

There are thirty-three tracks on Emotional Ninja, most under two minutes, and there might not be a clunker in the bunch. This is truly one of the funniest comedy CDs of the year – go get it.

Buy Emotional Ninja online

Whitney on Showtime’s Live Nude Comedy

Her killer set on Comedy Central’s Roast of Joan Rivers

Compilation of panel bits from Chelsea Lately.

Whitney Cummings website.

2 Comments

Filed under Comedy, Features and Interviews, Reviews