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June 2009

June 27, 2009

Home Alone

Home for the weekend. Normally that's a good thing except my family is away until after the Fourth of July, which means I'm alone. Again, that's normally a good thing except that I've been alone a lot in New York working on the show, and so it would be nice to have human contact with people over whom I have dominion (my kids) and one over whom I claim dominion (my wife). Even the dog is at the kennel, so I am totally by myself. Tonight though I'm going to a birthday party for a friend who is turning forty. I remember when my mom turned forty somebody got her a penis cake. I was twelve at the time and very embarrassed, although not so embarrassed that I did not eat a slice. That single slice of cake is probably most responsible for why I turned out the way I did.

So we continue to edit our new TV show. All in all, I would say that it's going well. Comedy Central seems pleased with everything, except for one sketch that we have a big disagreement about. For a show like ours it's pretty good to only have one big disagreement. The way we've decided to resolve it is pistols at dawn, which seems a bit extreme to me but Showalter is very committed to the idea and I want to present a united front to the network.

So yeah, it's a slow weekend here at my Connecticut mansion. I gave the entire staff the weekend off, which was very generous of me especially considering the fact that I don't have a staff. But if I did, I totally would have given them the weekend off because that's the kind of rich guy I would be if I were rich.

June 25, 2009

I'm Finally the #1 Something!

This is from a blog called "TV or not TV." According to this, I am the #1 person who should be a lot more successful. I guess that's a compliment?

Why Aren't They More Famous...?

Last week I went to see a little movie called ‘The Hangover’ at my local multiplex and in spite of people still not being able to abide my law of the cinema (no talking after the second Pearl & Dean clip) I thoroughly enjoyed a very funny film that I would highly recommended to anyone (check last week’s blog for a more in depth review).

The main reason I went to see ‘The Hangover’ was its three male leads: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms – three very funny men whose work I have always enjoyed immensely. ‘The Hangover’ should be the big break that these three previously shockingly overlooked comedy actors deserve and hopefully we will now get to see a great deal more from all three of them.

This got me to thinking though: which other actors/comedians are there out there who are criminally virtually unknown to the mainstream and deserve wider recognition for their comedy genius?

So here are five very funny men who, I think, if there’s any justice in the world, are due a ‘Hangover’-esque big break…


5. Jeff Garlin

Sure he co-stars in one of the best TV comedies out there but beyond his work on ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ Jeff Garlin has been criminally ignored.

I’m willing to overlook his misjudgement in agreeing to dress like a giant carrot to appear in ‘Daddy Day Care’ because this man is a very funny stand-up comedian with great comic timing as an actor.

Garlin has directed two other brilliantly funny stand-up comedians in Denis Leary and Jon Stewart for their respective HBO Specials as well as directing several episodes of ‘Curb’ and writing/directing a feature film.

He has guest starred on a plethora of TV comedies but it is his work as Larry David’s put upon agent Jeff Greene in the award-winning ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ that is Garlin’s most recognised. Garlin also produces ‘Curb’ and his contribution to this ground-breaking show cannot be underestimated.

One of my favourite Garlin roles was that of host at the painfully funny ‘The Comedy Central Roast of Denis Leary’ (Lenny Clarke’s “fuck the Kennedys story still makes me laugh just thinking about it!) where he proved that he could handle hosting duties with suitable aplomb – I personally think he’d be a great choice for the OSCARS.

‘Curb’ has obviously opened doors for Jeff Garlin and even if it has just exposed a few more people to a very funny man then it has done its job – although many people will probably know his voice more than his face after his voice roll in the sublime ‘Wall*E’.

Jeff Garlin is a larger than life (literally) character and deserves to be so much more renowned than he is, he may not be getting any younger but if ‘Curb’ continues to enjoy success then there still could be time yet for Jeff Garlin to become one of the world’s biggest (literally) comedy stars.

Follow him on twitter - http://twitter.com/jgarlin



4. Kevin Nealon

As I have discussed in the past, American comedy institution ‘Saturday Night Live’ can either be a gift or a curse to its alumni – and unfortunately the very funny Kevin Nealon has been struck by the latter for many years.

Nealon debuted on ‘SNL’ in the 1987-88 season and remained with the show for nine seasons, during which time he became anchor on the show’s popular ‘Weekend Update’ segment.

In the years since ‘SNL’, Nealon has appeared in several films with his former ‘SNL’ co-star Adam Sandler, like Jeff Garlin he also made the ill-advised decision to appear in the lamentable ‘Daddy Day Care’.

Nealon is a very funny man, his background in stand-up obviously giving him a strong foundation for the jump to screen – he has great screen presence and comic timing, can make you laugh with a simple look and has an acerbic wit.

His appearances on one of the most unintentionally hilarious shows of recent years ‘Celebrity Poker Showdown’ were always a highlight as it gave him a chance to showcase his biting sarcasm, yet quite warm personality. Like many a fine comedy actor, Nealon was also excellent in his cameos on the genius ‘The Larry Sanders Show’.


Nealon has recently gone some way to ridding himself of the dreaded ‘SNL’ curse with his role on a show that I really need to get into properly – the very black comedy ‘Weeds’.

As Doug Wilson, the fun-loving city councilman with a penchant for smoking weed, Nealon is perfectly cast – even going as far as improvising a large amount of Doug’s dialogue.

‘Weeds’ is currently airing its fifth season in the States on the vastly improved Showtime network, in its previous four seasons it has garnered a number of award nominations and wins, but as yet Nealon has been overlooked.

If he continues to be one of the best things about the show though, then maybe he will finally get that recognition he so richly deserves.

Follow him on twitter -
http://twitter.com/kevin_nealon

3. Jason Jones

When former ‘Daily Show’ lead correspondent Rob Corddry left the show he jokingly claimed the reason was that Jason Jones had raised the bar too high and that he wasn’t able to say the things to people that Jones does.

While many of his former ‘Daily Show’ peers, such as Corddry, have left and gone on to bigger things Jason Jones has remained on the show that made him.

Since we finally got ‘The Daily Show’ in the UK a few years back, Jones has consistently been my favourite ‘Daily Show’ correspondent – he recently had me in tears with his gag to New York Times executive editor Bill Keller.

During a report on how traditional newspapers are struggling against the internet, when Jones asked Keller to tell him a joke (I forget the context) Keller suggested Jones tell him one – has this guy never watched ‘The Daily Show’!? – to which Jones duly replied “What’s black and white and red all over?”

A classic right…? Quick as a cat Keller replied innocently “a newspaper” to which Jones beautifully responded “no, your balance sheets…”

‘The Daily Show’ special reports are designed to, in a similar vein to Sascha Baron Cohen’s comedy creations, expose people’s ignorance by making themselves sound stupid. Jason Jones just does it in the most hilarious fashion though, and he has quickly become Jon Stewart’s MVP.

Outside of ‘The Daily Show’ Jones’ work has been limited; he has appeared in the inexplicably popular US sitcom ‘How I Met Your Mother’, as well as several commercials.

Married to fellow ‘Daily Show’ star Samantha Bee, with whom he has two children, Jones is reportedly currently working on a sitcom with his wife in which he will star.

Given the success that other, less funny, ‘Daily Show’ alumni have gone to achieve it should only be a matter of time before Jason Jones goes on to achieve great things and although it will be sad to see him leave ‘The Daily Show’ I would be the first person in line to check out whatever he comes out with next.


2. Eric Christian Olsen

Eric Christian Olsen played the ill-fated George Mason’s son on season 2 of ‘24’, and as if that wasn’t cool enough; he’s also a very funny actor.

Olsen moved to tinsel town just before the turn of the Millennium and quickly found success and critical acclaim in TV drama such as ‘ER’. His first series role was on the short lived FOX dramedy ‘Get Real’ opposite Anne Hathaway.

Olsen soon found his forte though when he made the move into comedy and he has racked up supporting roles in a veritable smorgasbord of comedy films, invariably being the best thing in gash films, i.e. ‘The Hot Chick’, ‘Not Another Teen Movie’, ‘Beerfest’ and ‘License to Wed’.

Olsen also had the unenviable task of filling Jim Carrey’s shoes when he played Lloyd Christmas in the horribly ill-conceived ‘Dumb and Dumber’ prequel – Olsen was again the best thing in the film and actually came away from the film not only unscathed but with certain plaudits.

Eric Christian Olsen first came to my attention playing Jensen Ritchie on the short-lived second season of ‘Tru Calling’ and Olsen has continued to combine both supporting roles in drama and comedy on both the big and small screens.

After stealing the show in yet another supporting film role in the Zach Braff-starring ‘The Last Kiss’ – which boasted an excellent cast (Braff, Casey Affleck, Michael Weston), Olsen landed a series regular slot on yet another TV show that wouldn’t survive too long when he played Sully on ‘The Loop’ opposite ‘Reaper’ star Bret Harrison.

In his short career Olsen has proved himself to be a versatile actor but it is his aptitude for comedy that should eventually make him a massive star. He has the goofy, slacker friend shtick down to a fine art, but hopefully his drama work should prevent him becoming typecast, as he is capable of so much more.

Olsen’s gift for comedy has gained a cult following in the last year or so thanks to Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s website Funny or Die. There are a series of videos circulating starring Olsen as Perry Hilton – a borderline retarded male socialite unashamedly based on Paris Hilton.

The video of him annoying Jeremy Piven is great and there is also a spoof sex tape with Eva Longoria, but it is the video of Perry being caught drink driving that always has me in stitches and features the genius line: “I went over to Lindsay Lohan's barbecue. And by barbecue, I mean she heated me up a hot pocket and blew me."

Hopefully Perry Hilton could start the internet buzz that kick starts Olsen’s career and just remember: “life’s tasty”.

Follow him on twitter – https://twitter.com/ericcolsen



1. Michael Ian Black

Michael Ian Black is the proverbial ‘Jack of all trades’ – comedian, writer, actor and a damn good poker player.

His book ‘My Custom Van… And 50 Other Mind-Blowing Essays’ is a spectacularly funny read and has turned me into a huge fan of this very funny man.

Please follow the link below and start following him on twitter, he has some of the funniest, non-sequitar updates I’ve seen and the fact that he has amassed close to 700,000 followers speaks volumes.

He even instigated what he dubbed the “World’s first twitter war” with Levar Burton (the guy who played Kunta Kinte) to see who could get the most followers.

Black first came to real prominence in the States as a commentator on the ‘I Love the…’ series – we get Kate Thornton they get Michael Ian Black, how’s that fair!?

Along with members of his comedy group The State, Black performed on the shows ‘Viva Variety’ and ‘Stella’, he also had a supporting role in the dramedy ‘Ed’.

He has recently been seen on the awesome ‘Reaper’ as a gay (now dead) demon alongside another very talented comedy writer Ken Marino and his new Comedy Central show ‘Michael and Michael Have Issues’ with frequent collaborator Michael Showalter begins next month in the States.

Black co-wrote ‘Run, Fatboy Run’ with Simon Pegg – a man who has great taste in comedy – and he also wrote and directed, slightly less impressively, ‘Wedding Daze’, the spontaneous marriage comedy that starred “the pie-fucker” himself Jason Biggs.

As with Nealon and Garlin, Black also appeared on ‘Celebrity Poker Showdown’ and was consistently praised for his poker playing as well as being extremely entertaining at the table.

Black’s comedy is very pop-culture heavy and is the sort of thing that I personally eat up, he has proved with his screenwriting, his stand-up and his book that he is an exceptionally funny man and it’s about time that more people knew about him.

Follow him on twitter – http://twitter.com/michaelianblack

Editing

So now we're editing, which means we're putting together everything we shot into an actual TV show instead of just hours of footage of Showalter forgetting his lines. The way you edit is load everything onto super computers and then nocturnal people with big eyes use magic to make into it a movie.

So far, the editing is going well. We've got first cuts of all of the episodes, which is good considering we start airing in less than a month. Our goal is to have everything pretty much done by the end of June so that if time shrinks it'll still be ready for our July 15th premiere. (By "time shrinks," I meant the literal shrinkage of time-space, which is also one theoretical way you would travel at warp speed.)

I will say that I'm thrilled to be done with shooting. Shooting is hard work, and as I get older I realize more and more that I was not cut out for that sort of thing. Easy work, yes. Shooting Klondike commercials, for example. That's pretty easy work. Writing, acting, directing, and producing? Not as easy. So it's good to be onto the final phase of our show.

Increasingly the question in our minds is: will anybody watch? Fortunately I have little control over that, so it's not something I spend a lot of time worrying about. I would say I worry as much about how many people will watch as I do about the state of Jon and Kate's marriage, which is to say I worry about it, but not so much that it's affecting my appetite.

June 20, 2009

That's A Wrap

"That's a Wrap" is not only a terrific name for a pseudo health-conscious sandwich shop, it's also what we said last night around eleven o'clock to signify the end of shooting on "MMHI." The announcement was greeted with many hugs, tears, ass grabs, etc.

The end of a long shoot is always a time of mixed emotions. On one hand, one is happy to be finished with the long, long days and questionable catering. On the other hand, intense friendships are formed over the weeks, and we haven't had a chance to have terrible falling-outs yet, which is how I know a friendship has completed its cycle.

Our entire crew was magnificent, doing heroic work on a very tight budget. Each one of them is the film equivalent of a really hot stewardess on a discount air carrier.

The next step is editing. After that we put the shows on the air and then obsessively check the internet for every single random mention. The premiere is less than a month away. Sho and I are very excited and nervous. I'm also nauseous but that has more to do with eating my first "finger steaks" here in Montana than with anything having to do with the show.

Observation: any food that incorporates the word "finger" is probably not going to be the smartest choice, although Butterfingers taste pretty good.

June 18, 2009

A Very Quick Bonnaroo Wrap-Up

Although I am surely not the first person to call it “Bongaroo,” I was nonetheless pleased with myself when I thought of renaming the hippie-dippy Tennessee music festival from which I just returned. Michael Showalter and myself spent a scant few hours at Bonnaroo, but we had a great time during our brief stay and I definitely went apeshit on the free Butterfingers.

Butterfinger sponsored the comedy tent where we were performing, so there were lots of tiny individually wrapped candies in lieu of the fresh vegetables and dip that we usually have backstage. Is that a good thing? I guess it depends on your perspective, but I will say that Butterfingers taste surprisingly good dipped in Ranch dressing.

The shows themselves were good. Nick Kroll and Aziz Ansari performed with us, and during the first show the lovely Margaret Cho showed up and did a surprise set. So that was cool. Both Nick and Aziz were hysterical, especially one of them but I’m not going to say which one because it would definitely upset the other one. But ONE of them was amazing. AND good-looking. The only downside was that the shows were only scheduled for around an hour and fifteen minutes so Showalter and I didn’t have a lot of time to perform, since we were hosting the night and wanted to make sure everybody had time for their sets.

There is a common misconception that comedy and music go hand in hand. That’s usually not the case. Doing comedy at a music festival is actually very difficult since comedians do not compete well with musicians on any level. We’re not as cool, and we’re certainly not as loud. Last year, Sho and I went to the Sasquatch Festival in Oregon. The Mars Volta was playing while we were doing our show, the result of which was that our audience was able to see us, but hear the Mars Volta. Pretty sure that’s not a good combo.

Bonnaroo actually did a very good job of keeping the two things separate. There was a tiny bit of spillover from the music, but they had a great big air-conditioned tent for the comedians which worked well. If they invite us back, I’d love to go, although next time I’m hoping we can stay for more than a few hours. The reason we had to come and go so quickly is that we’re still in production on our TV show and there just wasn’t time to hang out and enjoy the amazing bands they had: Bruce Springsteen, Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, Band of Horses. They also had Phish! You will note I separated Phish from the list of amazing acts. Actually, I’ve been making fun of Phish a lot but the truth is, I honestly don’t even know their music. My mockery is coming entirely from a place of ignorance based on their genre: jam band. I’ve never been fan of free form musical experimentation because I am not a fan of being bored.

Anyway, thanks Bongaroo for having us and thanks Butterfinger for providing hours of jokes based on your name. 

June 17, 2009

In Praise of Weird Al

[DISCLAIMER: Although I do not know him, Al is a friend of friends, so any opinions expressed herein are written knowing that if I say the wrong thing about Weird Al, one of my friends might go, “Dude, what the fuck?” I never know how to respond when people say “what the fuck” so I try to avoid that situation whenever possible.]

The other day I got into a mild argument with somebody when I said that Al Yankovic has a lot of respect in the comedy community. This other person, who shall go nameless because I did not bother to learn his name, seemed shocked that the words “respect” and “Yankovic” were coming out of my mouth in the same sentence. So let me say it loud and proud: I respect and enjoy the artist formally known as Weird. Why? Because nobody does what he does better.

In general, song parodies are not my thing. I mean, it doesn’t seem to take a lot of talent to replace the lyrics to somebody else’s song, but when you think about it, by that definition, some of the most famous songs in the world are song parodies. For example, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” is basically just a song parody of “God Save the Queen.” Maybe not as hilarious as “Eat It,” but basically the same idea. “The Alphabet Song” is “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Etc.

But Al has single-handedly elevated the concept of the song parody into its own comedic genre. He was the first person to parody music videos. More importantly, he was the first to put Dick Van Patten in one of those music videos. Also, many of his songs aren’t even direct parodies. His latest, “Craiglist,” is a riff on the Doors. Not any song in particular, but the entire oeuvre, which is my favorite word. Ray Manzarek even plays keyboards on the song, which is one of the reasons it sounds so Doorsy.

I suspect the reason Al doesn’t get more credit is because his comedy doesn’t rely on irony. His is the comedy of Hawaiin shirts and funny last names. He plays accordion. He has funny hair. He is, in short, uncool. Ironically though, it’s his very uncoolness which I think contributes to his growing street cred. Weird never went alternative, never did anything other than what he does. He never went gangster except for “Amish Paradise,” the video of which features that gangsta bitch Florence Henderson. He is who he is, a Dr. Demento devotee who made it big. People respect his devotion to a craft that seems, on its surface, so utterly lame.

As a kid, I loved Weird Al. Looooved Weird Al, and so did every other teenage boy I knew. When MTV was young, Al’s videos felt subversive, the way a whoopee cushion is subversive. His Michael Jackson video for “Eat It” was one of the funniest things I had ever seen. Ditto “Fat,” and “Like A Surgeon.” A new Weird Al video was a major television event, the teenage boy equivalent of Breaking News. I cannot tell you where I was the day Reagan was shot, but I can tell you about the first time I saw “I Lost on Jeopardy.” Even then though, nobody really talked about Weird Al the way we talked about other musicians we liked. How is it that in my underdeveloped teenage mind, Simon LeBon deserved more respect than Weird Al? The thought shames me still.

By any measure, Weird Al has had an amazing career. He’s won three Grammys, sold twelve million albums, and for a time, had the worst moustache in the entire world. And on top of that, I’ve heard that he’s a genuinely nice guy.

My friend Tom is friends with Al, and I once asked Tom if when they are hanging out Al ever breaks out the guitar and plays some of his totally romantic heartfelt shit that he’s too embarrassed to release to the general public: the love songs, the anti-war protest songs. Tom said no because Al doesn’t write those kinds of songs. Al just writes stupid comedy songs. Which made me love him even more.


June 07, 2009

I Love You, Internet

From some website:

Now to cover the other end of the spectrum I think absolute craziest Twitter background title belongs to Mr. Michael Ian Black in which has a depiction of him hiding behind Dr. Pepper cans evidently naked and apparently strangling a unicorn while Demi Moore is looking on.

This background seems to be helping him gain followers because he also has over a quarter of a million followers, even though he is not famous. He does claim to be a famous comedian but his claim to fame is from an obscure show on MTV which no one watched since MTV has stopped playing video and started ripping off Mexican TV game shows. His Twitter background can be seen at http://twitter.com/michaelianblack


June 01, 2009

The Hammock

Hammocks are one of the finest inventions humanity has ever created. A hammock is probably as close to an anti-gravity machine as we’re going to see between now and the year 2015, which is when “Back to the Future II” takes place.

The technology is startlingly simple: string a bunch of rope between two trees, get in, and voila – instant contentment. It’s hard to be pissed off in a hammock. Rarely does somebody storm out after a fight yelling, “I’LL BE IN THE HAMMOCK!”

On Sunday I spent several hours in my backyard hammock. They were the best hours of the weekend, even when my children joined me and decided to play a game I dubbed “severe turbulence.”

Children love hammocks for all the wrong reasons – they see them as opportunities to induce nausea, whereas I see them as antidotes to the slightly sick feeling that I associate with my daily life. But the hammock’s versatility just further proves its greatness; it can be a place of meditative calm or a vomit-inducing thrill ride.

My hammock was a Father’s Day present from a couple years ago, so much better than my usual Father’s Day presents, which are best described as “nothing.” It came in a big cardboard box, and I immediately went outside to string it up between two trees. Unfortunately, it turns out we do not have two adequately spaced trees on our property, so I was forced to order a hammock stand which seemed like kind of a cheat at the time but was actually a blessing in disguise because it made the hammock portable. The hammock therefore became the most portable means of achieving rapid unconsciousness at my disposal until I discovered Ambien.

I like to call the hammock my “dry womb” because it’s as close as I can get to entering the fetal state without submerging myself in expensive amniotic fluid. It’s also sort of like cocooning, but I don’t like to think of it in those terms because then I start to think about caterpillars and caterpillars are gross.

Sadly, living in cold weather climes as I do restricts a hammock’s use to about half the year. I suppose I could bring the thing inside, which the kids would love, but if I do that they will undoubtedly force me to portray Captain Bligh during countless games of “HMS Bounty” throughout the long winter. A man can only stand so many mutinies before growing annoyed. My limit is one.

The other nice thing about the hammock is that my wife tends to yell at me less when I am sleeping outdoors. When I sneak off to our bedroom during the day, she yells at me to “get my lazy ass up,” but something about the fact that the hammock is outside makes tricks her into thinking that I am somehow doing something active. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the fact that the hammock moves. Regardless she almost never yells at me when I am in the hammock, just as I never yell at her from within it. “YOU ASSHOLE!” are words that never come out of my mouth when I am in the dry womb. Because the hammock is a happy place and I am happy within.