Tag Archives: Todd Barry

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.

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Life Is Good

Went to see The Beehive Queen tonight, as part of the Rochester International Jazz Festival (yeah, I know…) and she was amazing. Had the crowd in the palm of her hand the whole time; got a standing ovation during the last song.

And that was just the early show. I’ll have a link to the live review later this week, but here’s a link to 83 song clips that will blow your mind.

Also on the horizon as part of the Jazz Fest – The Bottle Rockets on Thursday (yeah, I know – also not jazz!). Later this month, Zappa Plays Zappa; next month Crowded House, John Hiatt and maybe even a road trip to see a double bill of Squeeze with Cheap Trick. Already saw Marah once last week and might catch another show.

Todd Barry, Doug Stanhope and Marc Maron are all coming to the hinterlands – those three are very high on my list of the best comics around. There’s a Bill Hicks movie on the way, too.

And I’m looking at the Detroit calendar (thanks Suebedoo) to see how I can maximize another pilgrimage to see the hottest band on Earth, The Hell Drivers. Speaking of which, it looks like it’s going to be one hell of a summer.

Life is good.

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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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