Through the course of the evening, I gave careful consideration to things.
I really think Heather Lawless should be famous. I think her material is hilarious and her style is totally unique and brilliant. She's going to be in the new Michel Gondry film with Jack Black.
Mike Daisey told a totally engrossing and hilarious story about playing on snowmobiles in his childhood in Maine.
Until we had some technical difficulties, and so Mike and I covered by talking about how silly the word "monologuist" is, and also how to pronounce it (he says Monologue-ist, I say monolojist).
Luckily, Jeff Solomon was on the boards, and he rescued the show from disaster (technical disaster - not artistic disaster - artistic disaster was assured by my presence).
Then David Wain came on stage and was immediately hilarious, which really took the pressure off of me.
Although he couldn't believe I asked that.
Then Donwill and Von Pea of Tanya Morgan rocked the house, or at least shook it a bit and made some jokes in between verses to take the pressure off the whites who'd never seen a rapper before.
I had the pleasure of spending some six hours in the beautiful Newark, New Jersey airport yesterday, and a great part of that time was spent with the Sunday Times. The Magazine this week is all about film comedy, and it's full of good stuff, and even some great stuff.
Chris Rock is interviewed, and calls Deborah Solomon on her traditional BS:
I find Borat’s hostility toward women juvenile and upsetting.
If no one is uncomfortable with your act, you’re probably not digging really deep into yourself.
Borat comes out of your own tradition of shock comedy. You use a lot of profanity and off-color humor, at least when you’re doing stand-up.
Me? What have I ever said that was off color? I don’t think I have ever been off color.
Our pal John Hodgman compiled a group of short essays on the subject "How to be Funny." They include one by another friend of the show, Patton Oswalt, that was SUGGESTED BY YOURS TRULY. I am basically a New York Times reporter.
There is a feature on Will Ferrel that, frankly, is basically completely without insight. There's one on the comedy film business that's somewhat more insightful. There are also pieces on online video and the great Chris Guest.
They also ask "22 funny people" their top five desert island comedies. David Cross ("Actor, Men in Black"), true to form, includes "Rent" and "Homer and Eddie" in his list. There are many, many great films. Laurel & Hardie are quite popular on the lists, perhaps even moreso than the Marx Brothers, and certainly more so than Chaplin or Keaton.
Here's my list:
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure
A Thousand Clowns
The Big Lebowski
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
(with honorable mentions to The Blues Brothers, the other Python films, and Wet Hot American Summer)
What are yours?
I'm off to NY for TSOYA Live tommorow very early in the morning. I can't imagine I'll have internet access anything like consistently, so don't expect much from me.
see you there!
Over on AST, Patton Oswalt shared this Borat joke that didn't make the Borat film:
Q. What is the difference between a Jew and a bucket of dirt?
A. The Jew is more. "
By Michael Leaverton
The SkyMall catalog, which sells essential products like motorized CD towers, electronic mouth-herpes inhibitors, and personal counterfeit-currency detectors ($499!), is no longer the fertile comedy ground it was last month. Similar to the way The Onion locked up the fake news article, comedy troupe Kasper Hauser has now given us the definitive airborne catalog parody, SkyMaul: Happy Crap You Can Buy From a Plane, much to everyone's jealous rage. The excellent humor runs from cover-your-eyes funny to give-yourself-a-bruise funny, but I also suspect it might be, depending on the health of your colon, shit-yourself funny. It's the kind of book to read slowly and cautiously, as items like Divorced Dad "Pancake Time" Trumpet — "Tell them to rise and shine by blowing some bullshit on this Austrian parade trumpet" — prompt explosive belly laughs that could dislodge your liver. Although you can't actually purchase Christian Over-the-Clothes Massage Lotion, Our Worst-Selling Motocross Boots, and a Real Dolphin ("Tell all the naysayers to suck it!"), the book comes with large, colorful, fucked-up photos that'll make old people think they can. Tonight's book-release event features a sketch performance from Kasper Hauser (James and John Reichmuth, Dan Klein, and Rob Baedeker) and the troupe in conversation with McSweeney's editor Eli Horowitz.
Date/Time: Tue., Nov. 14, 8 p.m.
It's almost here!
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences doesn't think much of comedy, generally speaking. Of the 30 films that have been nominated for best picture in the 21st century, only one was a comedy (Alexander Paine's "Sideways"). In that same timeframe, 60 actors and actresses have been nominated for Oscars for lead performances. Of those 60, four were for comedies -- Judi Dench in "Mrs. Henderson Presents" (more of a lifetime achievement nomination), Diane Keaton for "Something's Gotta Give," Jack Nicholson for "About Schmidt" (same) and Nicholas Cage in "Adaptation." There are a few borderline cases ("Gosford Park," "Lost in Translation"), but the point remains the same. Indeed, three of the four actors nominated Dench, Nicholson and Cage) are known primarily as dramatic actors. The one comic actor nominated, Bill Murray, was nominated for an almost comically self-serious role. This is all to say, in the words of a man who narrowly missed a Best Actor nod for "Ladybugs," that comedy gets no respect.
So what does it take to win an Oscar for comedy? A performance that's truly transcendent. One that breaks the rules so thoroughly that it writes new ones. Someone who captures our hearts at the same time they incite our laughter. A bolt from the blue that makes us re-evaluate what comedy and comic acting can be.
In other words, Borat.
Borat is a tornado, tearing apart our cultural landscape. Sneak previews and festival screenings of the film started building buzz a few months ago. One of the most respected comedy writers I know went on record saying that he thought it might be the funniest movie ever. Reviewers have been effusive, parroting that comedy writer's praise. The film opened number one in the country on only 800 screens, and is shaping up to be a cultural juggernaut. At the center of it all, of course, is Borat -- or more specifically, actor Sacha Baron Cohen, playing the role of his life.
I'll say it right now: if Sacha Baron Cohen doesn't take home an Oscar for this film, the Oscars are irellevant.
What's so amazing about his performance?
- The transformation. The Academy has already shown it's prediliction for the showy, transformative performance. Philip Seymour Hoffman as the self-parodic Truman Capote, or Jamie Foxx as the eyes-glued-shut Ray Charles are only the most recent examples. Cohen's Borat is even more remarkable. This bizarre creation must functional not only in the fictional confines of a carefully scripted drama, but in the real world, where normal people buy into his reality even as he spouts absurdities. A man at the rodeo warns him to shave his mustache, so he won't be mistaken for Muslim. Borat tells him he isn't Muslim, he is a Kazakh: "we follow the Hawk."
- The creativity. Cohen's character work must be so well-grounded that he can carry it anywhere, and it must be flexible enough to use in real life. He can certainly prepare in advance for a scene, but to succeed, he has to generate ideas in the moment, not only to ground the reality, but to create the laughs. An amazing achievement.
- The empathy. Perhaps the most amazing part of the Borat phenomenon is the love he generates from the audience. No matter how vile his comments about gypsies and jews, or how bizarre his behavior, the audience remains sympathetic to him and indeed identifies with his journey. Balancing on that razor's edge is unbelievably difficult, and Cohen has done it perfectly.
- The... newness. There's never been a character like this, or a film like this. The film isn't completely without precedent -- there's certainly a bit of "Spinal Tap," a bit of "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure," a little Foreign Man, a little Peter Sellers and even a bit of Dogme and Mike Leigh. But to create something new, and do it so succesfully, is amazing. And it all comes back to Cohen's stunning performance.
In short, a filmic comedy performance can't get any better than Cohen's in "Borat." It's a once-in-a-lifetime tour de force. It's magic. And if the Academy can't see that... what are they good for, anyway?
AND FURTHERMORE: I talked to Stephen from Borat Online, and we've decided to launch the BORAT OSCAR CAMPAIGN! Share your bright ideas on how we can make this dream a reality!
A classic from the Dana Carvey Show. Our friend Ian Brill has posted a potpourri of such clips over at The Brill Building, thus breaking my stranglehold on the "posting Dana Carvey Show clips" market, not to mention the "remembering the Dana Carvey Show at all" market.
Our friend Mike from Hard N Phirm is selling his 93 Honda Accord.
Turns out it's not only a car... it's a megastar.