Archive for the ‘Comedy and Standup’ Category

Is it just me or are roasts the worst? I know that it is a long, celebrated tradition for comedians to gather together and say terrible things about one another, but inside jokes and vicious slander just really aren’t my cup of tea – unless I’m the one delivering the jabs.

While roasts used to either be televised and tame or private and vulgar, Comedy Central has bridged the gap by making them both televised and vulgar. The cable network began producing and airing the New York Friars’ Club’s annual roasts in 1998. After five years of that, Comedy Central started creating their own roasts in the same spirit. Hardly a year has passed without the network roasting a celebrity, some of them comedians (Denis Leary, Jeff Foxworthy, Bob Saget, Larry the Cable Guy) and others less so. Adding to the latter class is Comedy Central Roast of David Hasselhoff. Having debuted last August, this most recent special came to DVD January 11th, allowing the “Knight Rider” actor, international singer, “America’s Got Talent” judge, and reliable joke punchline to join the ranks of Comedy Central roastees like William Shatner, Flavor Flav, and his “Baywatch” co-star Pamela Anderson.

Anderson is on hand as the most relevant roaster of the program, on which “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane serves as roastmaster. Other speakers include comedians and regular roasters Jeffrey Ross, Lisa Lampanelli, Whitney Cummings, and the recently deceased Greg Giraldo. Rounding out the eclectic group are Hulk Hogan, “Talent” colleague Jerry Springer, longtime actor George Hamilton, and Gilbert Gottfried.

Being a conniseuer of Comedy Central roasts, I would deem this a fairly typical one. Each roaster chooses obvious targets while going after one another, such as MacFarlane’s debt to “The Simpsons”, Hamilton’s age and signature tan, Springer’s brand of sleaze, Lampanelli’s weight and apparent predilection for black men, and the less famous folks’ general obscurity. Hasselhoff, who ascends to the stage with a performance of “Hooked on a Feeling” and signs off with “This is the Moment” from his Broadway debut Jekyll & Hyde, barely gets more notice than the others. The comedic goldmines that are his career, personas, and personal life are widely traversed. Naturally, his battle with alcoholism emblemized by his 2007 drunken shirtless burger-eating viral video is repeatedly ridiculed.

Roasters often strive to push the envelope and those featured here uphold this rite. Genitalia, most often Anderson’s, are frequently personified. Jokes are made about the Holocaust, the African American civil rights movement, and then-current news stories. Gary Coleman’s corpse gets likened to Hasselhoff’s liver. In these comedians’ minds, nothing is in poor taste and with Hasselhoff agreeing to no boundaries, just about anything goes. As always, the outrageous insults are received with larger-than-life guffaws, with every target — especially Hasselhoff, sitting high in a red lifeguard chair — taking pain to display that they are the best of sports.

It’s a highly unpleasant atmosphere masked by joviality and I can’t imagine enjoying it any more as part of the approving free audience than as an unamused home viewer.

There are two brief highlights to the show, which at 72 minutes runs at least nine minutes longer than it did in its 90 minutes of commercial airtime. The first is an early montage of Hasselhoff footage incorporating, among other things, “Baywatch”, “Knight Rider” and Click clips, appearances on “Diff’rent Strokes”, “SpongeBob SquarePants”, and Norm MacDonald’s “Saturday Night Live” Weekend Update, his performance at the Berlin Wall’s fall, references on “The Simpsons” and “South Park”, and the infamous burger video. This amusingly-edited reel entertains more than everything else that is to follow. That includes the second respite, which has an unseen, uncredited William Daniels (also of “Boy Meets World” and “St. Elsewhere” fame) shortly reprising his role of KITT to good-naturedly join in the ribbing and questioning of Hasselhoff’s judgment.

It wasn’t the best roast Comedy Central has produced – that honor going to Bob Saget – but it’s worth a one-time watch for the jokes and maybe a second peek for the appearance of Pam Anderson. All in all, The Nutwork rates it 7.5 out of 10. Happy viewing.

IMDB: Here


Like Jim Norton and Patrice O’Neal, Sarah Silverman and Lisa Lampanelli, Daniel Tosh clearly belongs to Comics Without Borders, a group of comedians that fearlessly (some scolds may say tastelessly) crosses boundaries to deliver jokes to those in need…of convulsive laughter.

“If I offend anybody tonight, I apologize. It’s not my intention. I’m not going to guess what your personal line of decency is. I cross my own from time to time; it’s how I know I still have one,” Tosh proclaims perfunctorily at the outset of Happy Thoughts, his new album from Comedy Central Records (available on March 8th – the special aired on Comedy Central March 6th).

Reciting that counterfeit concern (the equivalent of liquor makers’ routine pleas to “drink responsibly…so we can advertise recklessly”) frees Tosh to shamelessly, gleefully, and, forgive us oh NAACP, ACLU and NOW, hysterically be his paradoxically insolent self: the choirboy with the devilish sense of humor.

Onstage in a plain white shirt, gray pullover sweater and charcoal pants, Tosh resembles a seminary student or the banjo-thrumming member of some folksy ’60s singing quartet. But beneath the Gap uniform lies a clever, relentless, remorseless guerrilla who deliberately tosses grenades into crowds and admires the explosion of gasps and probably inappropriate applause his incendiary commentary provokes.

A master of misdirection, Tosh purposely creates unease — with cringes and twinges of guilt in audience members being his payoff.
“I have no problem with illegal immigration in this country,” Tosh announces, jabbing the Right before leveling the Left with this emphatic sucker punch, “except for the fact they don’t serve on jury duty. That’s horseshiiiiiiit. It should be the other way around; they should serve exclusively on jury duty. Yeah, then it finally would be a jury of ones’ own peers. It’s not a stereotype if it’s always true. Yeah, then it becomes law. That joke is called, ‘Latinos Are Criminals.’ That’s just a title, it doesn’t mean anything.”

Yes, Tosh often straddles the line barely separating mockery from misogyny and bigotry, but oh so deftly. He never sounds genuinely hostile or mean. No doubt he mines deep for his jokes, using a backhoe it appears to dig low enough to discover the humor in usually taboo subjects: premature death, poverty, homelessness, domestic abuse, abortion, and, uh, really, rape. A brilliant comic alchemist, Daniel Tosh somehow spins the grim into comedy gold.

Tosh.0 – a half hour show with Daniel setting up and commenting on viral video – is a huge hit on Comedy Central. It airs Tuesday nights.

IMBD: Link | Wiki: Link | Amazon: Here

Eddie Griffin is going to say it and he doesn’t care who knows it. Griffin shares his thoughts on his love for Michelle Obama, who really makes up the Tea Party, Tiger Woods and why Cleveland should get over LeBron James. The hilarious World Television Premiere stand-up special, “Eddie Griffin: You Can Tell ‘Em I Said It” aired Saturday night, February 19 on Comedy Central.

The uncensored digital album of “Eddie Griffin: You Can Tell ‘Em I Said It” will also be released on February 22 by COMEDY CENTRAL Records.

Comedian turned actor who started his career on stage on a dare, funnyman Griffin has built an ever-growing fan base since entering the comedy scene in 1990. Griffin was a regular at the renowned Comedy Store and hit the national scene opening for Andrew Dice Clay at Madison Square Garden. His numerous credits include Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam, the Cable Ace Award-nominated HBO special “One Night Stand,” HBO Comedy Half-Hour Special and the HBO special, “Voodoo Child.” Griffin has appeared in 47 films including “Double Take,” “John Q,” “Undercover Brother,” “Armageddon,” “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo,” “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo,” “Date Movie” “Scary Movie 3,” “My Baby’s Daddy,” “Norbit,” “Beethoven’s Big Break,” “The Last Boy Scout,” “Coneheads” and “Jason’s Lyric,” among others. He also starred in his own hit comedy series, “Malcolm and Eddie” for which role he was won the NAACP Image Award for Best Actor in a Comedy Series in 2000. In addition to lending his acting experience to this sitcom, he also wrote and directed four episodes, one of which starred Richard Pryor. Eddie Griffin is widely known for his award- winning Comedy Stand-up Special “Dysfunktional Family,” which he starred in, wrote, and executive produced.

“Eddie Griffin: You Can Tell ‘Em I Said It” was produced by Eddie Griffin, Ann Flagella, Barry Katz, Brian Volk-Weiss and Eric Kritzer.

IMBD: Link | Wiki: Link | Download (AVI): Link

Comedy is subjective. Regardless, some comedians do tend to find fairly universal appeal across the lines, but they do it by straddling milquetoast topics and never crossing any lines. Denis Leary isn’t one of those comedians. Most people find him abrasive, others find him unfunny for trying too hard to be controversial, and still others consider him a pale imitation of the late Bill Hicks.

Then you have the people – like myself – who enjoy his angry, outspoken rants and that song he wrote a few years back about being an asshole. In Douchebags and Donuts, Leary, two of his Rescue Me co-stars and comedienne Whitney Cummings team up for about 95 minutes of hit-or-miss comedy punctuated by some of Leary’s songs.

Leary kicks off the night with one of his songs about pedophilia in the clergy, a topic that has really been drained of all its juice prior. He quickly transitions into warning labels on the side of prescription drugs that he finds particularly hilarious and his opinion of the people willing to accept death as possible consequence of taking Viagra. Nothing ever feels all that fresh from Leary’s material, but he does a decent enough job as the warm-up for the three comedians who follow him. However, if you’re watching this expecting Leary as a great headliner (as I was) you’ll be a bit disappointed yet pleasantly surprised to find that the acts that follow are quite a bit funnier, mostly because they rely less on a gimmick (like drug side effects) and more on telling a story.

Up next is Leary’s Rescue Me co-star Lenny Clarke who talks about being fat, losing weight and beating your children to instill a sense of respect. If item number 3 in that list sounds like it might upset you, just know that the man does it from the angle of “it made our generation functional, why not theirs?”. Clarke is probably the second funniest act of the night and it’s due in large part to his ability to talk about being fat (a staple for lots of comedians) in a way that’s personal to him and then switching gears effortlessly into his other bits without missing a beat. However, seeing as how he precedes Whitney Cummings, who proves to be the most hilarious person to take the stage all night, even he pales in comparison.

As the lone representative of estrogen in the lineup, Cummings goes the “bitches be crazy” route talking about all the ridiculous social pressures women feel when meeting new people and, of course, how men and women differ in a wide assortment of ways. Again, it’s nothing groundbreaking in subject matter, but she approaches it all which such hysteria and ferocity that she manages to overcome your hesitation to laugh and you just go with it.

Finally, another Rescue Me costar, Adam Ferrara, takes the stage and talks at great length about his fiancée and some of the asshole things he does and says that makes you wonder how she sticks around. He knows it. He enjoys it. His comedy comes from a more personal place than all his cohorts who preceded him on stage, and at times the jokes seem to land on deaf ears – and it’s awkward, but he moves on and by the end his set ranks about third.

Leary can do funny stand-up when he’s not trying so hard at shock tactics, but here he seems to be entertaining himself more than he is his audience. The entire show averages out to a decent night of comedy, but by no means could it ever be called a solid run. The laughs just barely edge out the silence and consequently it’s a show that seems to stop and go erratically. Making it nearly impossible to build momentum and get the endorphins flowing free.

IMBD: Link | Wiki: Link | Download (AVI): Link

Jim Gaffigan is an unlikely comedic hero. While other famous comedians use probably offensive and shockingly unfunny puppets (Jeff Dunham), make “jokes” about society and race that have been done better by just about every stand-up ever (Carlos Mencia), or mug like a seven-year-old left alone with a camera for a few minutes (Dane Cook), Gaffigan does nearly 15-minute riffs on bacon, and its hilarious.

Gaffigan broke to national consciousness with his Beyond the Pale special, which coincided with appearances on Conan O’Brien as a member of the Pale Force, an animated series that found he and O’Brien united to fight crime using their pale skin as a weapon, and his bit appearance in cult film Super Troopers. Beyond the Pale became a hit on the back of a lengthy riff about Hot Pockets and their impact on the human digestion system (you might as well just put them in the toilet to save yourself), which is now something of a comedy standard.

Gaffigan returned in 2008 with yet another offering, titled King Baby, which was recorded in Austin, TX on the final stop of a lengthy tour.

King Baby is mostly about laziness—ours and Gaffigan’s. This leads him down paths discussing moving walks (including the ones that announce the walk is ending, in case you forgot how to walk), escalators, and watching obscene amounts of TV without moving (and replacing the batteries for the remote from the smoke alarm). But most of the laughs come from Gaffigan’s lengthy riffs on bacon (including choosing a religion based on it’s opinion of bacon), ketchup, and how bologna’s spelling is beyond comprehension.

Food jokes are obviously an integral part of Gaffigan’s act (which features absolutely no cursing), and while they have a tendency to drag a bit, they help position Gaffigan as an everyman—the guy who you meet at a bar and end up spending 45-minutes talking to about how bad the diarrhea is you get when eating frozen food packets, and about how awesome bacon is.

King Baby also features a lot of Gaffigan’s “crowd voice” where he talks in a higher register and asks rhetorical questions of himself from the point of view of an audience member. These jokes (like an audience member going, “How many jokes is he going to do about bacon?”) not only allow Gaffigan to step outside of the goofy slacker persona he’s created for himself, they allow him to make rapid-fire jokes upon jokes, never really leaving a blank lull in between them. Sometimes the quick succession of jokes lessens the laughs, but often, it’s one of Gaffigan’s biggest strengths (especially when he more or less argues with himself during a few bits).

Overall, King Baby is a tighter performance than Beyond the Pale but it lacks the truly memorable riffs that the latter had. If anything, King Baby confirms Gaffigan’s comedic chops, and further cements his position as one of the better working comedians today.

1 Inside Voice
2 Bowling
3 Lazy
4 Escalators
5 Camping
6 Bed
7 Bacon
8 Ribs and Bologna
9 Recycling
10 Deodorant
11 Circumcision
12 Almost Heaven
13 House Guest
14 Dunkin’ Donuts
15 Fast Food
16 Catsup
17 Waffle House

MySpace: Link | Wiki: Link | Download (224kbps): Link

You might recognize Lewis Black – he’s been on tv, in movies and most known for his Back In Black segments on the uber-popular Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Crass, intelligent, and profane, Black has cemented himself as one of the best political humorists of our time. His punch-in-the-gut approach to standup has made him one of – if not the – best comics going today,

On his new album, Stark Raving Black, Lewis Black brings his singular style of profane and profound humor to the stage. Compelled by his passions and discontentedness with the absurdities of the world, he erupts in a hand-shaking, body-trembling, spewing of diatribe-laced dialectic comedy. Focusing on the personal and the political, Lewis guides his audience through a catalogue of the woes of the world, from the absurdities of aging (60 is NOT the new 40!) to the pitfalls of becoming a mainstream comedian to the insanity of Washington and Wall Street.

Also available on DVD, this audio CD is definitely worth a listen.

Track List:
01. Expectations
02. Democrats & Republicans
03. Mainstream Comedian
04. Vince Gill, Amy Grant & Me
05. Hitting 60
06. Birth & Death
07. Parents
08. The Economy
09. Greed
10. Alternative Energy
11. Hope

MySpace: Link | Wiki: Link

Over the course of his 20 years in show business, David Cross has built the kind of resume so-called “alt-comedians” can only hope for. He changed sketch comedy forever with Mr. Show and starred in a cult-loved show that he’ll have to answer questions about until he dies (Arrested Development). He’s appeared in a handful of good movies and starred in two truly terrible ones to bigger dividends than anything he’d done before (the Alvin & the Chipmunks movies). And now he’s released his third standup album, Bigger and Blackerer, his first album since 2004’s It’s Not Funny, and his best collection of standup yet.

Filmed over two shows in Boston’s Wilbur Theater in September, Bigger and Blackerer (obviously a play on Chris Rock’s immensely successful Bigger and Blacker) is a perfect title for this album, since this is as dark as standup gets.

Being that Cross has gone on wax making jokes about 9/11, he has to up the ante to get darker, but he does it here. Cross cracks wise about date rape pamphlets, aging (he compares the sounds of his old-man bowel movements to “a person with cerebral palsy unloading drums from a van”), how people who drink Coors Light must be retarded because they change the can every few months, how the “real victims” of global warming are Orthodox Jews, and how he’s decided that he’s done fighting about health care because he’d prefer for Tea Party members to die. Then he calls the devil the biggest pussy in all of fiction, extols the incredible sense of balance heroin junkies have, and goes on about how Mormonism is Scientology. So, you know, the kind of stuff you’d see on standup specials on the Disney Channel – not.

Most important, perhaps, Bigger and Blackerer is the funniest project Cross has been involved with since the third season of Arrested Development. On his past albums, he could veer between being the biggest asshole in the room to being the most annoying asshole in the room. While he keeps up the acerbic tone of his past releases, he makes sure to cut up his sermonizing with belly laugh-material in a big way here. If the comfortable life Cross has had since the first Alvin and the Chipmunks leads to more comedy albums like Bigger and Blackerer (he says he generally doesn’t care about much any more), more “squeakquels” (sorry) will be more than welcome.

MySpace: Link | Wiki: Link | Download (320kbps): Link