Maria Bamford is a stand-up whose comedy is equal parts confessional and surreal. Using events from her own life, including her struggles with mental illness, she finds comedy in the painful and absurd, infusing both with an infectious joy that has endeared her to fans around the world.
You might know Maria from her roles on shows like Arrested Development, Comedy Bang Bang, Maron and Louie. She found wider national fame during the 2009-2010 holiday shopping season when she appeared as a super-enthusiastic shopper in a series of Target commercials.
Maria sat down with Jesse to talk about her own experiences as a patient of various Los Angeles mental health facilities, finding love and how wanting to work less proved to be a good career move.
Wanda Sykes is a comedian and an actor with an incredible force of personality. Her distinctive voice both as a writer and a performer has earned her success on stage, television and film. She’s been nominated for seven Prime-Time Emmy Award including a win for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Special for her work on The Chris Rock Show.
The Curb Your Enthusiasm star joined Jesse to talk about transitioning from a career with the NSA to stand-up comedy, coming out “accidentally” during a rally against California’s Proposition 8 and why she believes that Bob Hope may have been a super spy.
Jesse was especially excited to talk with Wanda about one of his favorite characters in film, Biggie Shorty from the Louis C.K. directed, Chris Rock produced blaxploitation parody, Pootie Tang (or as we had to refer to it on NPR, “shmooty shmang”).
Wanda Sykes is beginning her tour this month which includes recording dates for her next comedy special.
Sykes is performing two shows at the Theater at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles this Saturday, May 21st. The shows will be filmed for her Epix special out later this year. It's called What Happened…Ms. Sykes? Find out more at WandaSykes.com.
This week, the Cinefamily in Los Angeles is hosting a unique film festival that features top comedians presenting movies that were personally inspiring or influential for them. The festival runs from the 12th to the 14th and features Garry Shandling (screening The King of Comedy); Margaret Cho (showing Darling); Paul F. Tompkins (presenting Topsy-Turvy); Doug Benson (discussing Cocktail!); Kevin Pollak (screening The In-Laws); and Andy Kindler (presenting Modern Romance). Each comedian will introduce the film, perform, and conduct a Q and A afterwards. It's sure to be a very fun and interesting series. I'm planning to attend and, if you are in the Los Angeles area, you should definitely join me. You can get tickets - which are only $10 - here.
The festival is being produced and hosted by actor and comedian Wayne Federman. Mr. Federman took a few minutes yesterday to tell me a bit about the aptly-named 1st Annual Wayne Federman International Film Festival and how it came to be.
Rebecca O'Malley (RO): What inspired you to create this festival?
Wayne Federman (WF): It wasn’t any one particular epiphany. It was a number of events that happened over several years. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine, Rob Cohen, who is a writer for The Simpsons, rented out a movie theater and showed the old Batman movie from the 1960s. It was very fun because it was communal and because he loved this film. And that really stuck with me as a fun, happy memory. Then, a few years later, I saw Patton Oswalt present a movie I'd never heard of called The Foot Fist Way. And it was so great to watch Patton introduce it because – one, he’s funny. Two, he was passionate about the movie. And three – what I liked most about it – was that he had no connection to the film. He wasn’t in it and trying to promote it for that reason. He wasn’t reminiscing about what it was like on the set – none of the usual type of presentation that you might encounter during a screening at a film festival. This was just someone I greatly admire being a fan of something he loved – and that was intriguing for me.
That’s when I had the idea to bring in comedians and have them pick a film - with the only criterion being that they cannot have been involved with the movie's production. Then we’ll show that film – do some stand up at the top - do a Q and A at the end – and just talk about this movie. Just nerd out over it. I thought that would be tremendously fun.
And every comedian that I asked to do it said "yes". They all liked the idea.
RO: That’s wonderful. How long did it take you to put the event together?
WF: It came together rather quickly. In a couple of weeks, actually. I knew all of the comedians. And I knew someone at Cinefamily. The key, really, was Garry Shandling. He was the first one to say “yes” – and he was so enthusiastic, so encouraging. He was very excited to see his movie selection in the theater again.
RO: Did he immediately know which film he wanted to present?
WF: He had a couple of ideas, but he kept coming back to The King of Comedy. He felt that it had a connection to Larry Sanders because of its backstage perspective and the way it was shot. And even beyond that he believes that this movie - and I'm sure he'll expand on this idea at the festival - it was so ahead of its time in terms of how it discusses the desire to be famous and what people will do to achieve fame. This was many years before reality television. It’s about comedy, in a weird way, and about talk shows. And about America.
RO: Did any of the other comedians immediately know which film they wanted to present?
WF: Some did. But most of them had never been asked to do something like this before – and they were very excited. Especially Margaret Cho. She truly loves the movie she is presenting, Darling. It's her favorite movie.
RO: If someone asked you to select a film to present, which one would you choose?
WF: That’s tough. One option that would be near the top of my list would be a movie called Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. I’m sure you’ve never seen it, but it was written by Roger Ebert. So that’s already fascinating – to see a film written by someone who critiques movies made by others. But it is also simply a terrific movie to watch with a crowd. I would consider it for those reasons alone. It’s not influential to me in any way. It hasn’t informed my comedy or my acting; but it is very entertaining to share with a crowd. But, beyond that, I’m pretty boring. I enjoy the classics. I would probably choose a Woody Allen film or Casablanca.
RO: Casablanca could never be boring! So is this festival - as the name suggests - an event that you are hoping to host annually?
WF: Oh yes! Definitely! Next year I want to expand it and make it a special thing for comedians. It’s exciting because I live in Los Angeles - and this is one of the few places in the world where you could put together this festival and invite people to attend and join the fun for only $10. Because we don’t have to fly in anyone or put them up. There are no expenses; only great comedians who want to participate. And who can get here easily. It’s just a celebration of stand-up and film – together.
Kathleen Madigan delivered a sharp political set on The Tonight Show Wednesday night.
Will it live up to the title? With track names such as "The Miracle of Sweatpants", "The Invisible Anus" and "The Burroughs of Carbs", I don't see how it can miss.
More Saturday stand-up! I liked this recent set by Marina Franklin on Craig Ferguson. Probably the best luge pun ever.
Jane Espenson (writer and producer for Torchwood, Battlestar Galactica, Buffy, Caprica, and Game of Thrones, amongst others) is developing a new web series called Husbands. It’s a classic newlywed comedy about two men who are dating and, while on a trip to Vegas, wake up to find themselves married. The first episode is expected on September 13th.
Donald Glover is preparing a one-hour special for Comedy Central called "Weirdo." The special will air on Sunday, November 20th and it will be his first full hour for television.
Jimmy Pardo was recently interviewed in SF Weekly. He talked about his early relationship with Bob Odenkirk as well as his favorite advice for young comics. Characteristically, that advice is very straightforward: "[w]henever people ask me for advice on comedy and how to get started in stand-up, there's no way to get started but to do it. Write down your ideas, things you think are funny. And then do it." Pardo will be joining Dave Anthony and Greg Behrendt this week on their podcast "Walking the Room".
Just in case you missed Louis C.K.'s most recent appearance on Conan last week, here's the clip. It includes great new material about murder and one highly unusual idea for a children's Halloween costume.
We had a really fun show last month as part of San Francisco Sketchfest, thanks to everyone who came out, our great performers and interview guests, Sketchfest and the Eureka Theatre. If you missed it, it's all here for you in convenient podcast form.
Baron Vaughn is a standup comedian who splits his time between LA and NYC. You can also see him on the USA series "Fairly Legal".
Kasper Hauser is, of course, one of our favorite sketch groups and an important part of the San Francisco comedy scene. You can subscribe to The Kasper Hauser Podcast on our site to hear more from them.
We also have a chat with Steve Dildarian, creator of the HBO series The Life and Times of Tim (you might know several of his Superbowl Budweiser spots, among many other commercials, created in his former life as an ad man). (Transcript)
We brought on the very funny writer, actor, and director Bobcat Goldthwait to talk about his latest directorial effort, World's Greatest Dad, why he quit standup comedy, and setting the record straight on some of the past antics. (Transcript)
Our old friend Jasper Redd was on Lopez Tonight the other night, and he destroyed, as per usual. They don't get much better than JR.
When I'm watching Jasper, I find myself laughing at the setups nearly as much as the punchlines, though the Lopez audience wasn't quite on board to that extent. "Purchasing some Twizzlers at a local pharmacy" killed me.
Comedian Chelsea Peretti performed at our live show in Washington, DC. She was recently named one of Variety's Comics to Watch for 2010. She recently appeared on the FX series Louie, and has also been seen on Last Call with Carson Daly, The Sarah Silverman Program and Comedy Central's Live at Gotham.